Despite omicron concerns, 100 million+ Americans likely to travel for the holidays
Americans are hitting the road for the holidays. According to AAA, roughly 109 million people are flying or driving for Christmas and New Year's. That is about 92% of the travel numbers from 2019 and a huge increase from last year's holiday travel season when the pandemic kept many people at home.
The omicron variant of the coronavirus, a highly-transmissible strain, is causing concern as cases are rising at an alarming rate in some cities. That's led to indoor mask mandates returning and other pandemic protocols returning in New York City, as one example. But the availability of the COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots offer protection we didn't have last year, and that's giving people the security to keep their plans intact.
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"Americans who canceled their vacations in 2020 want to gather with family and friends for the holidays this year, although they will still be mindful of the pandemic and the new omicron variant," Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel, said in a statement. "With vaccines widely available, conditions are much different and many people feel a greater level of comfort with travel."
The most popular choice for travel between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2 is the classic American road trip. More than 100 million will drive to their destination of choice, but with more than six million people expected to fly, expect airports to be packed around Christmas. AAA says Disney destinations Orlando and Anaheim top the list for most popular choices this holiday season, with Las Vegas, NYC and Maui finishing off the Top Five.
Related: 3 ways to pandemic-proof your holiday travel
Still, we are still in a pandemic and the new variant could lead to last-minute headaches, so being prepared is crucial for your holiday plans. First and foremost, don't leave your patience behind when you head to the airport. TPG has reported before how the TSA's passenger screening numbers this holiday season are almost back to their pre-pandemic levels of 2019. That was aided immensely by the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines and the U.S. reopening its borders to all international visitors.
Related: What you need to know about omicron and visiting New York
And, we've got a ton of tips for you to keep you sane this holiday season. Here's Summer Hull's top nine tips.