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Buckle up, holiday travel is predicted to reach record levels

Travel experts have some tips on how to travel smoothly for Thanksgiving weekend, whether by car or by airplane.
Buckle up, holiday travel is predicted to reach record levels
Posted at 4:04 PM, Nov 13, 2023

This Thanksgiving travel season will be a busy one.

AAA projects about 55.4 million travelers will go 50 miles or more from home for Thanksgiving, a 2.3% increase over last year.

“TSA actually has come out with numbers suggesting that the Sunday after Thanksgiving is to be the most traveled day on record,” said Katy Nastro, a travel expert with Going.

From Nov. 17 to Nov. 28, TSA expects to screen 30 million passengers. The agency projects it will screen 2.9 million passengers on Sunday, Nov. 26, making it the busiest travel day.

So how can you make sure your travel goes smoothly, whether it’s by plane or by car?

First, there are some tips to consider if you travel by air.

“Prioritize two things: Prioritize nonstop flights when you can, and prioritize morning flights,” Nastro said.

@scrippsnews Traveling for the #holidays? Multiple organizations are predicting it'll be a busy #travel season. Here are some tips to consider whether you're flying or driving to your destination. #TravelTips ♬ original sound - Scripps News

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“Morning flights have a 25 percentage point higher on-time arrival rate, and that's because the airplane is not coming from elsewhere, running the risk of getting delayed,” she said.

Other tips include being flexible in your booking. You can find cheaper prices if you fly on the actual holiday, and usually, less people traveling overall on that day, too.

If you’re traveling by car, gas prices are down this year.

The national average as of Nov. 13 is $3.36 a gallon for regular gas, down from $3.77 a gallon this time last year, according to AAA.

AAA said the overall busiest time to drive is the Wednesday before Thanksgiving from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Instead, try traveling before 11 a.m. the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, or on the day of Thanksgiving before 10 a.m.

When returning home, Saturday or Sunday before noon is your best bet.

As for traveling for Christmas or the new year, experts say to book sooner rather than later.

“If you're traveling over New Years and you haven't booked your ticket yet, try to circle 21 days as the absolute book-by date for your flight,” Nastro said.

Luckily, Nastro said we should not see any of the travel meltdowns we saw last holiday season.

“We are cautiously optimistic that we won't have an exact repeat of last year,” she said. “There have been systems put in place so that there won't be a repeat of last year, especially when it comes to the ‘tech issues’ that certain airlines came up against.”

If you plan on traveling internationally, make sure your passport has validity for at least six months past your return date.

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