Jumping in the car or on a plane to head home for the holidays? Join the club — a record 107.3 million others are doing the same between Dec. 23 and Jan. 1. If you’re making a trek to or from the Rochester region, here’s how to survive your journey with minimum hassle.
How many other people will be traveling with me this Christmas?
About 107.3 million people will travel by all modes of transportation to celebrate the holidays, some braving roads with up to three times the average congestion in big cities during peak times, according to an AAA forecast last week.
Holiday travel already set records this year for Memorial Day, Independence Day and Thanksgiving, according to AAA. The projected 3.1% increase in travel from Dec. 23 through Jan. 1 would represent the ninth consecutive year-end rise, according to AAA.
“We’ve seen the strong economy and growing consumer confidence fuel holiday travel all year long,” said Bill Sutherland, AAA’s senior vice president for travel and publishing.
Airlines are bracing for the impact of 51 million passengers from Dec. 15 to Jan. 4 this year, up from 49.3 million last year, according to Airlines for America data. Airlines will offer 91,000 more seats per day to account for the passenger increase, by adding flights and flying larger planes.
Most travelers will jump in cars, according to AAA, which expects 97.4 million to hit the road, 6.4 million to fly somewhere, and trains, buses and cruise ships to carry 3.6 million between Dec. 23 and Jan. 1.
Nationwide, the worst time generally to drive will be Dec. 22 from 3 to 5 p.m., according to Waze, a navigation app that based its prediction on a review of driver insights from last year.
If you’re driving, avoid traveling through major cities during peak travel times, and leave either early in the morning or after the morning commute. Traveling on the holiday itself often results in fewer cars on the road, according to AAA.
How much will I be shelling out for gas?
Gas prices are falling — The national average during the first half of the month was $2.47, which AAA expects to drop at least another 5 cents by the end of the year. The bad news? These are the highest year-end gas prices since 2014, according to AAA.
The Rochester area is seeing prices between $2.44 and $2.57 a gallon this week, according to gas price data on GasBuddy.com.
Drivers can expect pump prices to continue to drop as supply strengthens and fall gasoline demand weakens, according to AAA.
How do I get through the airport quickly and easily?
To make your holiday air travel as smooth as possible, check into your flight online before you arrive, and keep updated on social media or the airline website for any weather cancellations or delays.
Arrive at the airport earlier than normal — the recommended buffer is about an hour and a half ahead of your boarding time. Ride hailing options like Uber and Lyft are now available at the Greater Rochester International Airport — download the apps to your smartphone to grab a quick ride.
If you plan to park, visit www.rocairport.com for parking options and information on road closures and construction around the arrival and departure areas.
Have all documents, including a government-issued ID like a Driver’s License or passport, ready and easily accessible for security. A new Transportation Security Administration rule this year mandates that all electronics larger than a cellphone must be removed from carry-on bags from screening. Fliers will be required to place these items by themselves in bins to go through scanning.
If you’re flying by the seat of your pants and still haven’t booked your airline tickets for the holidays, here are some tips for finding a cheap fare.
What’s the weather going to be like?
A broad swath of rain and snow moves from west to east across the country this week. Heavy rain, thunderstorms and possible flooding are forecast for the South, with snow likely in the Northwest and the northern Rockies. People heading toward the Northeast could encounter delays, though the extent of problems remains unclear.
Christmas Eve snow could give western New Yorkers a white Christmas, though it’s not yet a sure thing.
Behind the precipitation is a pool of frigid Arctic air that will affect the nation’s midsection toward the end of the coming week and then arrive in the Northeast early next week. That could present travel difficulties of its own.
In upstate New York, the only significant pre-holiday weather will be Saturday, when moderate to heavy rain could slow travel.
Bonus: Where can I find a Christmas meal in Rochester?
Find an array of local establishments serving meals on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at DemocratandChronicle.com. Because Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday this year, many restaurants are serving brunch rather than the dinners served in years past.