Taking off for Christmas? You aren’t alone — and you won’t be when you arrive for gatherings with friends, family

Holidays

We’ve reached December, and the folks who told us what to expect for holiday travel before Thanksgiving are back with a new survey that predicts we will do a lot more traveling for the Christmas season than we did a year ago and that we will spend a lot of time with family and friends.

The Vacationer’s national research says that nearly 42% more of us plan to travel for the holidays this year.

That’s about 122 million adults who said they were planning to travel for Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa, which represents more than 47% of the population and is up from 33.46% last year, The Vacationer said in a release.

This analysis comes from a survey of 1,092 Americans 18 and older who filled out a form on SurveyMonkey. Eric Jones, an assistant professor of mathematics at Rowan College South Jersey, analyzed their responses.

The research was conducted before the public became aware of the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus, so it’s unclear whether improving vaccination rates and typically lower infection rates for COVID-19 were affecting the idea of traveling.

A separate poll conducted by High Point University and released on the same day revealed that slightly more than 1 in 3 North Carolinians (38%) said in a telephone survey that they are not concerned about COVID-19. But 49% said that they were.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that slightly more than 63% of eligible residents of North Carolina have been fully vaccinated, although most counties across the Piedmont Triad continue to have a “High” level of community transmission.

Guilford County is the only county in the region to be at the “Substantial” level after recently falling below the 5% threshold for positive tests for the virus.

“Almost 3 out of every 4 American adults or 190 million people will have a meal with friends or family this holiday season,” Jones wrote in his analysis of The Vacationer’s data. “This is a large percentage of the population and shows the strides we’ve made combating COVID over the last year.”

Taking to the air

The extended period of travel days for Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa indicate more people will be flying to their holiday destinations than had said they would for Thanksgiving.

The data show that 12.72% (or 33 million adults) said they would travel by plane, which is about 6 million more than those who responded to a survey before Thanksgiving.

More than 1 in 3 of us said we would travel at least 100 miles for Christmas, with almost 16% saying that would be 500 miles or more and only 8% for more than 1,000 miles.

“With so many more people traveling and taking part in Christmas activities, the holiday may be back into full swing after COVID,” Jones wrote. “Only 9.52% of survey respondents said they would take part in less traveling or Christmas activities.”

Official forecasts

AAA, which typically forecasts travel by both air and auto, has not offered its forecast for this Christmas season.

But for those who will drive to gatherings, Patrick DeHaan, the head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy, said there remains “a very high level of uncertainty” about gas prices through the holidays because of Omicron and what steps OPEC might take with oil prices.

The average gas prices around the Triad have dropped about 2 cents in the past two weeks, to $3.18 per gallon of unleaded regular gasoline in Greensboro as of Monday, GasBuddy reports.

“Americans can expect the new variant to push gas prices even lower,” DeHaan wrote in his analysis. “Beyond the next few weeks, it remains nearly impossible to predict where oil and gas prices will head, though turbulence is guaranteed.”

What we do know

Whenever we go or wherever we are going and however we will travel, though, we are pretty clear about what we will be doing after we arrive.

About 3 out of 4 of us said we would share a meal with family or friends, and about 53% of us said we would be attending a holiday party. Nearly 4 in 10 would be partaking in some sort of “family tradition.”

To help with those, nearly half of us (48.04%) will be baking cookies or other sweets.

About two-thirds of us (65.42%) will exchange gifts, but only slightly more than half of us (52.79%) said we would be decorating our homes. About 40% of us said we would be checking out those lights.

Christmas and Hanukkah traditionally are times for even rare churchgoers to attend a religious service, but only 1 in 4 of us (24.79%) said we would be doing that this year.

About 10% said we would go caroling, 17% would light candles and 12% would volunteer for a cause.

And then there are these who must be among Ebenezer Scrooge and his pals: 6.13% of us said we would be doing nothing at all.

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