Holiday travel expected to rebound, despite omicron variant

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By  Katie Akin, Iowa Capital Dispatch

An 184% increase in year-end air travel is expected compared to 2020, according to AAA. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

End-of-year holiday travel is expected to rebound to nearly pre-pandemic levels, even as the omicron variant of COVID-19 begins to spread more rapidly in the U.S.

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AAA predicts that more than 109 million Americans will travel more than 50 miles this year for the holiday. That would be a 34% increase in travelers from last year. Airlines will see the largest increase from 2020: AAA predicts a 184% increase in people flying for the holidays.

“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,” said Paula Twidale, an executive with AAA Travel.

But, Twidale said, “conditions are much different” this year due to widely available vaccinations.

Drivers can expect higher gas prices

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A majority of Americans traveling this season will travel by car. AAA predicts 100.1 million people will drive more than 50 miles this season, making up a majority of holiday travelers.

Drivers should expect to pay more at the pump on the way to festivities this year. According to GasBuddy data, the average gas price in Iowa is about $3 per gallon – 87 cents higher than it was a year ago.

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Out-of-state travelers can expect even higher prices, as the national average is $3.27 per gallon.

COVID-19 precautions remain in place for flights

Another 6.4 million travelers will take a plane, and 2.9 million will take a bus, train or other form of shared transportation.

Airlines and other forms of public transportation still require travelers to wear face coverings over their noses and mouths. The Centers for Disease Control recommend Americans delay travel until receiving a full vaccination against COVID. People who are not fully vaccinated should get COVID tests before and after the trip.

At a U.S. Senate hearing last week, CEOs of major airlines agreed mask requirements would remain in place as long as medical experts recommended them. The CDC recommends that everyone, including fully vaccinated individuals, wear face coverings indoors in public places with high levels of community transmission.

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