Record-breaking getaway: 1.3 million Philly-area residents traveling for the holidays, AAA projects

Nearly 1.2 million people in the Philadelphia region will be hitting the road, and more than 92,000 will travel by air.

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Travelers wait in line to board an Amtrak train in Philadelphia

Travelers wait in line to board an Amtrak train ahead of the Thanksgiving Day holiday at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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Philadelphians will break records this holiday season as they take to the skies and hit the road to see their loved ones, according to AAA.

The travel club expects more than 1.3 million Philly-area residents will travel over the year-end holidays. That’s an increase of 2.6% over last year, which would be the second-highest travel volume for the holiday season since 2001.

More than 92,000 Philadelphia-area residents (more than 7% of local travelers) will travel by air, an increase of nearly 4% over last year and the highest air travel volume on record for the year-end holidays.

AAA’s Jana Tidwell said this is mainly due to COVID restrictions for flights being lifted throughout the pandemic.

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“The last remaining restrictions were lifted in the middle of summer 2022, and at that point people began to book air travel,” Tidwell said. “We saw air travel rebound significantly for the holidays in 2022. Air travel throughout 2023 has been exceptionally strong as again, people return to traveling normally as we once knew pre-pandemic.”

Nearly 1.2 million Philadelphia-area residents will be hitting the road, up 2.2% over last year. This comes at a time where gas prices nationwide have fallen sharply, as far as 6%, in November.

“When they go to fill up at the pump, they will notice that gas prices have fallen below where we were this time last year, but they’re also at a level that we haven’t seen in over two years,” Tidwell said. “So that is definitely welcome news as with all of the increased spending that typically happens this time of year, motorists are looking at a savings when they fill up at the pump.”

The days right before and right after Christmas will see the most traffic. According to transportation analysts at INRIX, Dec. 23 and 28 will be the most congested days on the road.

“You have travelers mixing with holiday shoppers on Saturday, which is just a recipe for more congestion out there on the roadways,” Tidwell said. “The worst time to travel on Saturday, the 23rd will be between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m.”

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INRIX also says Saturday, Dec. 30, when many people will be heading back home from their holiday destinations or traveling for New Year’s Eve, will see an increase in traffic compared to a normal Saturday.

Other modes of travel — cruise ships, buses, and trains — will see a more than 16% increase over last year as nearly 38,000 Philadelphia-area residents utilize those modes of travel during the holidays.

Saturdays just got more interesting.

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