The American Automobile Association (AAA) forecasts that holiday travel this year will reach unprecedented levels. From Dec. 23, 2023, to Jan. 1, 2024, an estimated 115.2 million people are expected to travel, a 2.2% increase from the previous year. This surge is the second busiest season since 2000, only behind 2019's pre-pandemic levels.

Get Ready for the Rush: Holiday Travel Soars to New Heights with 115 Million On the Move
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Holiday Travel Hits Record Numbers This Season

This year's holiday travel figures are the second-highest since 2000 when AAA started tracking Christmas and New Year's travel. 

According to MSN, the record was previously set in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic. Airports are anticipated to be especially busy, with around 7.5 million air travelers, surpassing the 2019 record of 7.3 million. Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel, noted that this increase reflects a trend of Americans valuing travel to create memories despite costs.

Air travel is slightly more affordable this year, with average ticket prices lower than last year. Travelers are advised to book flights early and consider travel insurance, especially for nonstop flights and preferred seating.

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As per the news report, most holiday travelers, nearly 104 million, will drive to their destinations, an increase of 1.8% from 2022. This is just behind 2019's record of 108 million. INRIX, a transportation data provider, predicts that December 23 and 28 will be the most congested days on the road, and December 30 is expected to see higher than normal traffic. 

Bob Pishue, a transportation analyst at INRIX, suggests avoiding peak hours and using traffic apps for a smoother journey.

Besides driving and flying, more than 4 million people are expected to use other transportation modes like buses, trains, and cruises, exceeding the 2019 figure. The cruise industry, in particular, is seeing a resurgence in interest and is preparing for increased bookings post-holidays.

Preparing for busy roads and airports is essential for a smooth journey this holiday, as millions take to various modes of transport to celebrate the season.

Lethbridge Airport Sees Modest Holiday Travel Increase

As holiday travel ramps up globally, Lethbridge Airport experiences a smaller surge. Unlike many airports facing large holiday crowds, Lethbridge expects only a slight uptick in travelers passing through its terminal during the 2023 holiday season. 

Global News reported that WestJet, the primary airline operating at Lethbridge, connects passengers directly to Calgary. The airport remains relatively calm during Christmas despite limited weekly flights, as stated by Cameron Prince, the airport manager.

Prince mentions a recent trend of more passengers choosing flights over driving to Calgary International Airport, with ticket prices sometimes as low as $80. This is partly due to the cost-efficiency compared to driving, considering fuel and parking expenses in Calgary. Holiday travel at Lethbridge offers an easy experience, with shorter queue times and smooth movement through the terminal.

WestJet has prepared for a winter traveler surge and adverse weather conditions. The airline anticipates flying about 2,000 guests to and from Lethbridge Airport during the holidays, expecting the busiest days to be Dec. 12, 19, and 21. These figures are lower than in 2019 but may rise with last-minute flight bookings.

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