Christmas 2021’s Best, Worst Times To Travel In Georgia

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ATLANTA, GA — If you’re planning a Christmas vacation away from Georgia this year, you’re in good company.

More than 109 million people in the United States plan to hit the road between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2, according to AAA’s newly released end-of-year travel forecast. That’s a 34 percent increase from 2020, when most people were forced to cancel travel plans or hold smaller celebrations at home due to the coronavirus pandemic.

That dramatic bounce-back — 27.7 million more people traveling — will bring this year’s numbers within 8 percent of 2019 levels. Airlines will also see a 184 percent increase in travelers over last year.

“With vaccines widely available, conditions are much different and many people feel a greater level of comfort with travel,” Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel, said in a news release.

Road trips remain the preferred method of travel during the holidays. More than 100 million plan to reach their destination by car despite gas costing $1.25 per gallon more than a year ago. More than 6 million people are expected to travel by air, while 3 million people are booking buses, trains and cruises.

AAA booking data through October shows that travelers are headed to theme-park-heavy destinations such as Orlando, Florida, and Anaheim, California. Las Vegas, New York City and several other Florida cities also rank high.

Whether you plan to travel by plane, train or automobile, those doing so in major urban cities are likely to see increased delays in areas where traffic bottlenecks are already common.

The transportation analytics firm INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts only marginal delays throughout the holiday week. However, major metro areas across the United States could see more than double the delays versus typical drive times, while drivers in New York City are likely to experience more than three times the delays.

If you plan to travel from metro Atlanta and want to avoid the rush, be aware that the peak travel time is expected to be between 3:45-5:45 p.m. on Jan. 2, 2022. The corridor that will be the busiest will likely be I-85 South, Clairmont Road to MLK Jr Drive.

Nationwide, here are the best and worst times to travel over Christmas and New Year’s:

Dec. 23

  • Worst travel time: Noon-6 p.m.
  • Best travel time: After 7 p.m.

Dec. 24

  • Worst travel time: 2-6 p.m.
  • Best travel time: Before 1 p.m.

Dec. 25

  • Minimal congestion expected.

Dec. 26

  • Worst travel time: 2-4 p.m.
  • Best travel time: Before 1 p.m.; after 5 p.m.

Jan. 1

  • Minimal congestion expected

Jan. 2

  • Worst travel time: 2-6 p.m.
  • Best travel time: Before 1 p.m.

Travel Costs

Travelers are also likely to run into some higher prices and other changes from last year. AAA recommends travelers book flights, car rentals, accommodations and other activities as early as possible, as prices are not expected to decrease as the holiday nears.

Traveling by air: AAA flight booking data show ticket prices for Christmas week are up 5 percent from last year, with the average lowest round-trip fare at $154. For those flying around New Year’s, prices will be considerably higher, with the average lowest fare at $182.

Hotels: The cost of a night’s stay at mid-range hotels has increased about 36 percent, with the nightly rate averaging $320 on Christmas and $267 on New Year’s Eve.

Car rentals: Daily car rental rates are averaging about $130, a 20 percent increase over last year.

Travel Tips

Planning ahead can prevent a number of travel headaches, according to AAA:

  • Arrive at the airport early so you’ll have plenty of time to get through longer TSA lines and other travel checkpoints. For domestic travel, AAA suggests two hours ahead of departure time and three hours for international travel.
  • Consider booking a flight during non-peak travel periods to cut down on wait times.
  • Hit the road when there’s less traffic and allow for extra time when traveling to your destination.
  • Plan ahead. Check with state and local authorities where you are, along your route, and at your planned destination to learn about local circumstances and any restrictions that may be in place.
  • Minimize stops along the way. Pack meals, extra snacks and drinks in addition to an emergency roadside kit.
  • Follow public health guidance. Use face masks and remember to socially distance. Wash your hands regularly and be sure to pack disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer and a thermometer to help protect and monitor your health.
  • Check with your hotel. Prior to any hotel stay, call ahead to ensure your hotel is open and ask what precautions it is taking and what requirements are in place to protect guests.

For other helpful travel guidance from AAA, visit the organization’s COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Map for the latest state and local travel restrictions. You can also use to plan your road trip and help determine which rest stops, gas stations, restaurants and hotels are open along your route.

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