Pent-up demand projected to spur year-end holiday travel rebound

Roads and airports are expected to be busy in the coming days as people nationwide and across Ohio travel for overdue visits with friends and family.

More than 109 million Americans (including 4.4 million Ohioans) are expected to travel 50 miles or more between Thursday and Jan. 2, according to AAA. That’s 34% higher (33% in Ohio) than last year — the largest year-over-year increase on record. It’s also the fourth highest year-end holiday travel volume on record.

The actual number of people traveling by vehicle or airplane during the holidays could fluctuate, as some people may decide to stay home if there is an increase in reported COVID-19 cases or because of concerns about the Omicron variant, while others might note the progress in vaccinations and make last-minute decisions to travel, AAA said.

“Right now what we know is people are anxious to get back out there, so we’ll see if that has any kind of an impact,” AAA Club Alliance spokeswoman Kara Hitchens said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not changed its guidelines since news of the new variant has emerged, maintaining that it is safe for those who are fully vaccinated to travel.

The uptick is expected to mirror what has occurred over most holiday weekends since the COVID-19 vaccines became widely available.

“There’s a bigger comfort level that people have now with traveling,” Hitchens said. “The vaccine is much more widely available. People are getting booster shots, as well, so we feel like folks are taking the precautions they need to take to be able to get back out there and travel again.”

Pent-up demand also will lead to an uptick in air travel, which is expected to jump 184% nationally (181% in Ohio) from last year, with 6.4 million Americans (nearly 232,000 Ohioans), planning to fly this holiday season, according to AAA. That’s nearly triple 2020 year-end holiday air travel numbers and within 87% of 2019′s pre-pandemic numbers (90% in Ohio).

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Dayton International Airport will continue to monitor the weather nationwide during the holidays and feels “pretty confident everything should go very easy,” according to spokeswoman Linda Hughes.

“So far it looks like it’s going to be very pleasant, which is a wonderful thing,” Hughes said. “We’re always ready to bring in additional staffing or (have employees work) overtime should that not be the case.”

The airport, which has had its winter operations in place since October, meets with the airlines on an annual basis to get ready for the season, she said.

Passengers coming through this holiday season must wear a mask in the airport terminal and on their flight. Those who do not have a mask will have one provided to them by the TSA or the airline.

“Also, at the Christmas season, I would remind them not to wrap their gifts as they’re traveling,” Hughes said. “Should something (set off the) alarm, TSA will have to go into their bag and then they’ll have to unwrap their gift to make certain that that is not the item that is alarming.”

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For those who do hit the road, gas prices remain relatively high despite several weeks of dropping — prices have increased nationwide 45% from last year′s $2.25 per gallon, according to

As of Monday, the average gas price stood at $3.31 per gallon, down 10 cents per gallon since a month ago and projected to decline to $3.25 per gallon by Dec. 25, according to GasBuddy. That’s only 1 cent away from the $3.26 per gallon from Christmas 2013, the price of the priciest Christmas on record.

Ohio gas prices have also been dropping slowly. The average price at the pump on Monday was $3.05, down 18 cents from a month ago, according to AAA. The average price for gas in Dayton on Monday was $2.93, down 24 cents from a month ago but 89 cents more than last year.

The average price for gas in Springfield on Monday was $2.93, down 17 cents from a month ago but still nearly 85 cents more than last year.

Still, AAA does not anticipate that higher gas prices will deter motorists from traveling, Hitchens said.

“People aren’t letting gas prices stop their plans,” she said. “They may have to make adjustments and maybe find other places to go, other ways to enjoy themselves, maybe cut back on some things, but they are still going.

GasBuddy said prices at the pump are expected to continue to fall into the new year.


109 million: Americans who plan to travel during the holidays

4.4 million: Ohioans planning to travel

91%: U.S. travelers planning to drive to their destination

5%: Increase in airline ticket prices compared to Christmas week 2020

$154: Average lowest round-trip fare for major U.S. destinations.

27%: Increase in airline ticket prices for New Year’s compared to a year earlier

$182: average lowest airfare for New Year’s


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