The holiday travel season is officially underway, but if you’re planning to leave the Windy City, it might be best to hit the road sooner rather than later.
Lower gas prices and higher rates of disposable income will contribute to what may be the busiest holiday travel season on record, at least according to AAA’s annual forecast, which estimates a record-breaking 112.5 million travelers throughout the U.S. this holiday season.
That total is up 4.4 percent over last year and marks the highest total since AAA began tracking holiday travelling.
“Strong economic growth fueled by robust consumer spending continues to drive strong demand for seasonal travel,” said Bryan Shilling, managing director, AAA Travel products and services. “With a record-breaking one-third of the country choosing to travel this holiday, roadways and airports are sure to be busy.”
AAA relies on INRIX, a global mobility analytics company, to predict travel times and congestion.
For Chicagoans, INRIX predicts that next Monday – Christmas Eve – will be the worst day to travel with the worst time to travel expected to be between 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. That’s actually the latest date AAA assigned to any major city, with Dec. 20 pegged as the nation’s busiest travel date.
Last year, INRIX predicted Dec. 21 to be the busiest travel date in Chicago.
Around the country, Saturday, Sunday and next Wednesday – the day after Christmas – will be the busiest days to fly. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are expected to be somewhat lighter, and possibly cheaper, dates for flights.
In total, AAA forecasts more than 102 million drivers will hit U.S. roads this holiday season, along with 6.7 million air travelers and 3.7 million travelers taking trains or other means of conveyance.
“Our advice is to avoid traveling during peak commuting hours,” Trevor Reed, a transportation analyst at INRIX, said in a statement. “If schedules allow, leave bright and early, or after the morning commute.”