The Impact of Rising Fuel Costs on Your Holiday Travel Plans

As the holiday season approaches, a significant shift in gas prices is unfolding, affecting millions of Americans planning their holiday trips.

The surge in gas prices, a crucial factor for many travelers, comes at a time when a record number of Americans are set to embark on their holiday journeys.

This article delves into the reasons behind this increase and offers insights for travelers during this bustling season.

A bustling highway filled with a variety of cars and trucks during the holiday season, under a clear sky with a setting sun casting a golden hue. Festive decorations are visible along the road. In the background, a gas station with signs showing high gas prices illustrates the impact of surging fuel costs on holiday travel.

The Impact of Rising Fuel Costs on Your Holiday Travel Plans (PDF)

Understanding the Recent Surge in U.S. Gas Prices

The U.S. has witnessed a notable 0.6% jump in gas prices, the most substantial one-day surge since August, as reported by the American Automobile Association (AAA). This increase has brought the average cost of a gallon of gas to $3.097. The timing of this spike is particularly impactful, coinciding with the holiday season, a peak period for travel.

Several factors contribute to this surge. A primary driver is the global crude oil market, which has seen prices climb due to geopolitical tensions. Specifically, the situation in the Red Sea, where tankers transporting crude oil face potential attacks, has added pressure on oil prices. This instability has repercussions on the U.S. market, influencing gas prices across the country.

West Texas Intermediate, a benchmark for U.S. oil prices, experienced fluctuations, dropping 0.38% to $73.66 in New York trading. Similarly, Brent crude, the international standard, saw a minor decrease of 0.08% to $79.14 a barrel.

Impact on Holiday Travel: A Closer Look at AAA’s Forecast

The surge in gas prices arrives as AAA anticipates a near-record number of Americans – approximately 115 million – traveling during the Christmas and New Year’s period. This figure represents the second-highest year-end travel forecast since AAA began tracking holiday travel in 2000. Of these travelers, around 103.6 million are expected to journey by car, marking a 1.8% increase from the previous year.

Given these numbers, the holiday season is poised to witness significant road congestion. December 23 and December 28 are projected to be the busiest travel days, according to transportation firm INRIX.

Strategies for Managing Holiday Travel Amidst Rising Gas Prices

Bob Pishue, a transportation analyst at INRIX, highlights the potential for increased travel times nationwide, with some major metropolitan areas like Denver, Minneapolis, and Washington, DC, possibly experiencing delays nearly double the typical amount. To navigate this busy period, travelers are advised to plan their journeys carefully.

Here are some strategies to consider:

  1. Travel During Off-Peak Hours: To avoid the worst of the traffic, consider traveling outside of peak commuting times.
  2. Leverage Technology and Resources: Utilize traffic apps, local Department of Transportation (DOT) notifications, and 511 services to stay informed about traffic conditions and road closures.
  3. Budgeting for Gas Expenses: With higher gas prices, budgeting for your trip becomes even more critical. Keep an eye on gas prices in different areas and plan your refueling stops accordingly.
  4. Alternative Travel Plans: If possible, consider alternative modes of transportation such as trains or buses, which might offer a more cost-effective and stress-free travel experience during this busy season.
  5. Staying Informed: Keep abreast of news about crude oil prices and geopolitical events that may influence gas prices, allowing for more informed travel planning.


As 115 million Americans prepare for holiday travel, understanding the dynamics behind the surge in gas prices and planning accordingly can make a significant difference in the travel experience.

By staying informed and adopting smart travel strategies, holiday travelers can navigate this busy season more effectively, despite the challenges posed by rising fuel costs.