NYC Christmas travel guide: 2023 AAA forecast

More than 115 million Americans are set to travel 50 miles or more over Christmas and New Year's, according to the AAA.

The 2023 holiday travel period begins Saturday, Dec. 23, and lasts until Monday, Jan. 1, AAA experts say. The agency projects an additional 2.5 million travelers compared to last year.

With New York City as a top holiday travel destination, locals should plan accordingly. Here's everything you need to know. Click below if you'd like to jump to: 


AAA says the number of travelers is a 2.2% increase over the last year and the second highest since 2000, when AAA began tracking holiday travel, behind only 2019. 

Road traffic

This year, the most popular mode of travel is auto, by 90%.

Saturday, Dec. 23, and Thursday, Dec. 28, will be the busiest days on the road, according to INRIX, a provider of transportation data. 

According to AAA, Saturday, Dec. 30, will also see an increase in traffic compared to a normal Saturday as some people return from holiday getaways while others depart for their New Year’s celebrations. 

Best/worst times to travel by car

The AAA said the best times to hit the road in general are before lunchtime or after 7 p.m.

On Saturday, Dec. 23, the best travel time is to leave anytime before 10 a.m. The worst travel time is from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Traffic in a street in the Manhattan borough of New York on December 4, 2023. (Photo by Charly TRIBALLEAU / AFP) (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images)

The AAA predicts that New York City metro area will see the longest travel time from New York to the Hamptons via the Long Island Expressway East, at 2 hours and 8 minutes.

On Sunday, Dec. 24, and Monday, Dec. 25, minimal traffic is expected, according to the AAA.

From Tuesday, Dec. 26- Dec. 30, the best time to hit the road is anytime before noon.

On Sunday, Dec. 31- Jan. 1, a minimal amount of traffic is expected, according to the AAA. 

Gas prices

AAA says gasoline prices are lower than last year with a current national average of $3.15 per gallon compared to $3.27 in 2022, and a Connecticut average of $3.30 per gallon compared to $3.37 last year.

Nearly 104 million people will drive to their holiday destinations, an increase of 1.8% compared to 2022 and the second-highest on record, behind only 2019, according to an AAA Newsroom report.  


Airports are expected to be the busiest they’ve ever been over the holiday travel period, according to the TSA

AAA projects 7.5 million air travelers this holiday season, surpassing 2019’s record of 7.3 million passengers

New York, a tourist hotspot, is also on AAA's top-ten list of domestic destinations, based on flight booking data. 

Average ticket prices are slightly lower than last year.

So far this year, airlines have canceled 1.2% of U.S. flights, down nearly half from 2.1% over the same period last year. Cancellations were well below 1% during Thanksgiving, according to FlightAware.

Flying in the U.S. is already surpassing pre-pandemic levels. The TSA has screened 12.3% more travelers than it had by this time last year and 1.4% more than in 2019. December is running about 6% above the same month last year.

Bus, train and cruise travel

The number of travelers taking some other mode of transportation, such as bus, train or cruise, is also expected to surpass pre-pandemic levels.

Slightly more than 4 million Americans are expected to travel in one of these modes, compared to 3.66 million last year and 3.89 million in 2019. However, cruises are becoming more popular.

"More Americans are investing in travel to make memories with loved ones and experience new places," Schieldrop said.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.