Holiday travel surge not letting up for Christmas

DES MOINES — The final holiday of the year is projected to follow the pattern of others when it comes to the number of people expected to hit the roadways and airports.

Triple-A Iowa spokesman Brian Ortner says holiday travel from the region including Iowa is projected to be the fourth highest on record. “A fun way to describe it, I guess is wash, rinse, repeat when we look at how 2023 has been, you know, even despite inflationary pressures, and Americans and Iowans are still willing to get out, then travel for those holidays,” he says. “We’ve seen it over Thanksgiving, we saw it over Independence Day. And now we’re seeing it for Christmas and New Year’s coming up.”

Ortner says the travel surge continues to be driven by the pandemic, which kept everyone from traveling. And I say that based on a survey done back in August by Triple-A, that we’re asking people, you know, what are your reasons for traveling?,” Ortner says. “And the mindset has changed from bucket list items to man, I want to see family and friends.”

Nearly nine million people in what’s called the north-central region are expected to head out for the holidays. “About 8.1 million of those are going to be hitting the roads. And the biggest thing was that sometimes it’s just easier to drive and sometimes more cost effective than hitting the air, you know, we are seeing higher numbers in air travel in our region,” he says. “The number that’s surprising, that’s exceeding pre pandemic levels is what’s classified as the other modes of transportation. And that’s like your cruises or your destinations, you know, your resorts and those sorts of things. But living in Iowa, we don’t have the sun or the beaches. So that makes a lot of sense”.

There’s now about two weeks to go before Christmas, and Ortner says you need to make reservations as soon as possible. “Whether it’s winter or summer, the advice remains the same for your air travel. Plan ahead, get to the airport early, and monitor your flights using your airline’s app or the airport’s apps to make sure your flights are not delayed or canceled,” Ortner says. “And consider travel insurance, you know if there’s a cancellation or a delay. Travel insurance is a nice comfort feature.”

The other states in the north-central along with Iowa are Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, and South Dakota.