Holiday travel forecast: Experts anticipate 3rd busiest season ever for SoCal


SAN DIEGO — Travel for the year-end holidays is expected to be the third-busiest on record for Southern California, the latest sign the industry is inching closer to pre-pandemic levels, the Automobile Club of Southern California said Monday.

Nearly 9 million people are expected to travel more than 50 miles from home between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2, according to spokesman Doug Shupe. The vast majority of those are expected to hit the road by car with nearly 800,000 likely to fly and another 200,000 taking the train, bus or cruise.

Although plenty of data goes into the club’s annual projections, it’s unclear how the recent surge of COVID-19 cases will play into the season’s travel numbers.

“The travel forecast for the year and holidays was prepared the week of November 15,” Shupe said, “so that was ahead of the omicron news breaking.”

That said, AAA doesn’t exactly see numbers fluctuating much as it’s a domestic travel forecast and excludes international travelers.

Due to the 11-day travel period, there will hopefully be less congestion on the road while people spread out their itineraries more compared to Thanksgiving, Shupe said. The top destinations for Californians ranked in order are Las Vegas, San Diego, Anaheim, Grand Canyon and Yosemite.

After some missed holidays in 2020, many have already booked their accommodations and at least domestically are expected to still travel.

Shupe says travel volume is projected to be about 37% higher than 2020, but down 6% from 2019.

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