Despite continuing economic troubles, more Americans are planning to travel this holiday season. According to a new report from AAA, an anticipated 42.5 million will be traveling 50 miles or more, which is 4 percent more than last year.
To find out where the greatest numbers of those Americans will be traveling, Bert Sperling of Sperling’s Best Places looked at airline flight statistics from last year. The resulting top 10 busiest cities are those that have the highest percentage of flights during the holidays. However, the list was not determined just by looking at raw numbers. Sperling’s team arrived at a list of the 100 largest airline destinations, counting only those flights that ended in each particular city so as not to include transfers.
“The large number of Florida cities in the top spots likely points to holiday travel to visit elderly parents who have retired to that state,” Sperling remarked. However, these may not all be ranking due to visiting family members — two tropical cities on the list are probably visited at this time more for vacations.
At the bottom of Sperling’s top 100 busiest holiday cites list were (counting from 100-96), Columbia, S.C.; Anchorage, Alaska; Santa Barbara, Calif.; Savannah, Ga.; and Louisville, Ky. Click ahead to see the 10 cities that ranked at the top, counting down to number 1.
By Colleen KanePosted November 22, 2011
Holiday Rank: 10
Thanksgiving Rank: 8
Christmas Rank: 21
Palm Springs was the destination for 13,406 flights last year. Thanksgiving brought in 464 of those flights and Christmas drew another 361 flights. While downtown Palm Springs’ annual Festival of Lights parade is a favorite tradition, Palm Springs is a resort town that’s likely to draw a significant number who are not traveling for holiday purposes.
Holiday Rank: 9
Thanksgiving Rank: 5
Christmas Rank: 15
There were 11,436 total flights into the Greensboro/ High Point area in 2010, and of that, 400 happened at Thanksgiving and 311 were at Christmas. Travelers to the Triad (which also includes Winston-Salem) might visit High Point’s Christmas Castle or the Tanglewood Festival of Lights in nearby Clemmons.
Holiday Rank: 8
Thanksgiving Rank: 6
Christmas Rank: 13
Some of the visiting spectators taking in the Holiday Lights Festival in downtown Milwaukee will be arriving on flights into the Brew City, of which there were 52,763 last year. Thanksgiving visitors accounted for 1,846 of those flights and Christmas guests arrived on 1,439 of the flights.
Holiday Rank: 7
Thanksgiving Rank: 9
Christmas Rank: 7
Jacksonville was the destination city for 34,615 flights in 2010, of which 1,188 were at Thanksgiving and 970 for Christmas. Holiday travelers to northeast Florida may have family to visit in Jacksonville, where they can take in one of several versions of “The Nutcracker,” or they may be heading to other areas including Orange Park, Lakeside or Lake City.
Holiday Rank: 6
Thanksgiving Rank: 10
Christmas Rank: 3
The Palm Beach area was the destination of 30,456 airline flights in 2010, 1,044 of which arrived in time for Thanksgiving, and 897 that came for Christmas. At least some of the passengers on those flights into the region this year will be heading to the Palm Beach Holiday Boat Parade.
Holiday Rank: 5
Thanksgiving Rank: 7
Christmas Rank: 5
Some 73,355 flights terminated at Fort Lauderdale last year, with 2,560 of those occurring at Thanksgiving and 2,149 at Christmas. Fort Lauderdale’s “Hyatt Extreme Christmas,” a residential display, was ranked among the top Christmas light displays in the U.S. last year, and the Fort Lauderdale Christmas Pageant is another popular tradition.
Holiday Rank: 4
Thanksgiving Rank: 3
Christmas Rank: 6
Hartford was the destination for 27,992 flights in 2010, of which 990 came at Thanksgiving and 809 at Christmas. Travelers to this airport could be visiting family in nearby cities including Avon, Bristol, Ellington, Middletown or Newington, or venturing a bit further afield to the rural winter wonderland of the Berkshires in western Massachusetts.
Holiday Rank: 3
Thanksgiving Rank: 2
Christmas Rank: 4
Miami was the destination for 82,172 flights last year, of which 2,956 were at Thanksgiving and 2,414 at Christmas. Miami’s white sandy beaches, nightlife and cuisine make it a popular destination in itself, although there may be some family visiting obligations fulfilled by travelers to Miami or nearby cities such as Coral Gables, Pinewood and Westview.
Holiday Rank: 2
Thanksgiving Rank: 1
Christmas Rank: 2
In 2010 there were 55,545 annual flights into the Queen City, with 2,010 flights timed for the Thanksgiving holiday and 1,662 at Christmas. Flyers could be visiting relatives in Norwood, Sharonville or Blue Ash, Ohio, or possibly Covington or Edgewood in Kentucky. Those sticking around Cincinnati itself might take in the festival of lights at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanic Garden or the New Nutcracker, among other holiday events and attractions.
Holiday Rank: 1
Thanksgiving Rank: 4
Christmas Rank: 1
There were 32,676 annual flights into southwest Florida’s City of Palms in 2010, with 1,150 of those occurring at Thanksgiving and 1,041 at Christmas. Travelers to Fort Myers are likely visiting older relatives who retired in Florida, in such surrounding cities as Cape Coral, Punta Gorda or Naples. But who knows, maybe some percentage of these travelers are big fans of industry and want to visit the summer homes of pals Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, which are both major local tourist destinations.