AAA Chicago forecasts that more than one-third of Americans, or about 112.5 million of us, will be traveling somewhere over the Christmas holiday.

The record-breaking 112.5 million travelers taking to the nation’s runways, roads and rails for the year-end holidays represents a 4.4 percent increase over last year and the most since AAA has been tracking holiday travel.

For the more than 102 million people who will pack up their cars for a holiday road trip, INRIX, a global mobility analytics company, predicts travel times in the most congested cities in the U.S. could be as much as four times longer than a normal trip.

Here in Illinois, over 5.8 million people will be traveling for the holiday weekend, which is a 4.4 percent increase from 2017. Of those travelers, 5.3 million will be driving (up 4.4 percent from 2017) and 316,000 will be flying to their destination (a 4 percent increase from 2017). Gas prices across Illinois are on average $2.33, down from $2.66 last month and down from $2.50 a year ago.

The year-end holiday travel period is defined as Saturday, December 22nd through Tuesday, January 1st, 2019. The 11-day span is one day longer than last year, due to Christmas and New Year’s Day falling on Tuesdays this year.

AAA Chicago's Beth Mosher:

"Tis the season for holiday travel, and more Americans than ever will journey to spend time with friends and family or choose to take a vacation, strong economic growth fueled by robust consumer spending continues to drive strong demand for seasonal travel. With a record-breaking one-third of the country choosing to travel this holiday, roadways and airports are sure to be busy.”

Projected holiday travel by the numbers:

  • Automobiles: More Americans will travel by car this holiday season than ever before. The 102.1 million people expected to pack up their cars for road trips is 4.4 percent higher than last year. It is the most since AAA began tracking holiday travel in 2001.
  • Planes: The 6.7 million people who will travel by air this year is the highest level since in 15 years and is 4.2 percent more than last year.
  • Trains, Buses and Cruise Ships: Travel across these sectors will increase by 4 percent, with a total 3.7 million passengers.

For our area (Chicago, in particular), the busiest single travel time will be on Christmas Eve, Monday, between 1:30 and 2:30 in the afternoon.