LOS ANGELES — Thanksgiving travel is expected to reach nearly 98% of pre-pandemic volume, according to automotive and travel club AAA.
Nearly 55 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home this Thanksgiving which is a 1.5% increase over 2021. A majority of those travelers will be driving, but there is a spike in air travel this holiday season.
“About nine million people will be traveling (by air),” said Tiffany Stanley, AAA East Central Spokesperson. “It’s very shocking to see that the number of air travel is up 7% over what it was in 2018. So, yes, people are feeling a lot more comfortable to travel by air again.”
Industry leaders have been preparing for a Thanksgiving travel rush that looks more like a long, busy week of travel rather than a mad dash for the airport the day before the holiday. The extended travel window this year can likely be attributed to more people having flexible schedules.
“Take a car if it fits within your schedule and you have enough time to travel,” said Tina Tsan of Los Angeles. “If it's important to you, then go ahead and just eat up the cost and book the flight.”
AAA expects to rescue more than 400,000 stranded travelers over the holiday weekend. The primary call they receive is for battery service.
Meanwhile, airlines try to avoid any holiday meltdowns after a summer littered with delays and cancellations. As travelers return to the airport, they may find long lines and packed planes, compared to what they may remember.
“TSA is advising that there are no wrapped packages like Christmas presents and things like that because some things may need to be scanned a second time and a wrap package just makes it that much more difficult and slows down the process,” said Deputy Chief of Marketing and Air Service for Cleveland Hopkins Airport John Hogan.
Parking may also be a challenge for travelers this week. Of the 6,500 spots available at Hopkins, some are restricted due to construction, putting an even bigger squeeze on limited availability.
“This time of year, you can compare it to a shopping mall parking lot at a mall,” Hogan said. “You just can't build it just for the holiday period.”
Hogan said they’re expecting about 260,000 passengers over a ten-day period that began on Friday. The busiest days on the roads are expected to be Wednesday. This year is projected to be the third busiest for Thanksgiving travel since AAA started tracking in 2000.
To avoid the most hectic times, travel experts recommend traveling early in the morning on Wednesday or before 11 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day and avoiding travel between 4 p.m. - 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Americans are also ramping up travel by other modes of transportation. More than 1.4 million travelers are going out of town for Thanksgiving by bus, train, or cruise ship. That’s an increase of 23% from 2021 and 96% of the 2019 volume.