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What to Expect When Traveling This Thanksgiving

by Aoife O’Riordan

Nov 23, 2022

© Andrey Popov | Dreamstime.com

eFlyer Lead

The dreaded question of how to visit family and friends for Thanksgiving means looking at airlines, ticket prices, car rentals and, of course, crowds. Whether flying or driving, Thanksgiving often sees airports and highways jammed full of travelers. To avoid as much headache as possible, here are some things to expect should you travel this Thanksgiving.

A recent study conducted by Cars.com found more people plan to drive rather than fly this Thanksgiving. Citing factors like weather delays, high ticket prices and schedule disruptions, the study noted that, of the 61 percent of Americans planning to travel this Thanksgiving, 80 percent intend to drive to their destination. The study also discovered only 15 percent of respondents plan to fly, with many choosing to stay close to home.

Drivers who want to avoid the worst of traffic should not drive on Wednesday and Thanksgiving Day. According to INRIX, the busiest travel times by car last between 11 a.m. on Wednesday and Thanksgiving Day. For return travels, avoid travel between 4 and 8 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Instead, plan to travel early Wednesday morning before 11 a.m. and outside 4–8 p.m. on the three days after Thanksgiving.

Peak congestion sites include Atlanta (I-85 South; Clairmont Road to MLK Jr. Drive), Boston (I-93 South; Albany Street to MA-24), Chicago (I-290 West; Morgan Street to Wolf Road) and Detroit (US-23 North; 8 Mile Road to Lee Road). See here for a full list of the top sites expected to experience peak congestion this Thanksgiving season.

Findings from the Cars.com study support other reports from airlines and aviation analysts in that airlines expect travel to be less chaotic than this summer. This stems from airlines adjusting schedules, hiring more staff and putting employees in the right places to prepare for increased traffic. According to AAA, air traveler volume will be about 99 percent of the 2019 volume, reflecting an almost-complete return to pre-pandemic travel levels.

That said, weather remains the unavoidable factor that could disrupt countless travelers’ plans. Several airlines, including Delta Air Lines, have employed enough pilots, planes and customer service for Thanksgiving and beyond to prepare for potential bad weather.

TSA also announced it expects travel volumes to reach pre-pandemic levels during Thanksgiving. To prevent delays as travelers go through security, TSA released a list of Thanksgiving items that will need to be transported in checked baggage. TSA also included Thanksgiving foods that can be carried through a TSA checkpoint. See the list of foods allowed and not allowed through TSA checkpoints here.

While airlines expect few weather problems as travelers visit family and friends before Thanksgiving, according to CNN Weather, potential storms in the South threaten delays for return travels. Cities like Dallas, Memphis, Shreveport, Little Rock and Houston should expect rainfall beginning Thanksgiving Day. Those planning to travel to or from these areas should expect potential delays.

Do you plan to travel this Thanksgiving? Are you traveling by car or plane? What potential problems do you expect to experience during your travels? Have you experienced delays on past Thanksgiving travels? Tell us your thoughts. Email us at [email protected]. Please include your full name and location.

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