Travel experts are expecting a potentially record-breaking holiday travel season

From roads to rails and runways, travelers are in for a busy time ahead. Both TSA and AAA expect this upcoming Thanksgiving travel season to be one of the busiest in history.
Holiday Travel
Posted at 9:54 AM, Nov 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-14 10:54:36-05

MILWAUKEE — From roads to rails and runways, travelers are in for a busy time ahead.

Both the Transportation Security Administration and the American Automobile Association are saying they expect this upcoming Thanksgiving travel season to be one of the busiest in history.

"A lot of folks will be taking to the skies," said Nick Jarmusz, Director of Public Affairs. "In fact, Wisconsin is setting an all-time high for air travel for Thanksgiving weekend."

Jarmusz says more than 1.1 million Wisconsinites will join the tens of millions of Americans traveling 50 miles or more for Thanksgiving celebrations.

"What we're really seeing is a full return to normal," he said.

That return to normal will mean busier roads, airports and railways.

"It really speaks to the fact that even though there's still some general long-term anxiety about the economy, people do feel comfortable spending the money that they need to take a trip this weekend or next weekend to see family for the Thanksgiving holiday," Jarmusz said.

Flyers like Bonnie Wright say there's no time to waste when planning trips right now.

"I'm retired and I have to get it all in while I'm young," Wright said. "I'll be 72 next week so I'm trying to get everything in and everything fun."

Meanwhile, the Panici family is visiting from Arizona and agrees the travel buzz is all worthwhile to share time with family.

"We didn't want to travel with all of the crazy hustle and bustle, and it was cheaper so that was the other factor," said Brooke Panici.

Cost is a factor. But, data from AAA shows in most cases, traveling is actually cheaper this year than last. Flights are up roughly 5% in price, but other travel-related costs are down.

"When you're looking at hotel stays, when you're looking at rental car costs - those costs are all down compared to last year," said Jarmusz.

Now, as you pack your bags, Jarmusz says to plan ahead, be prepared for changes, give yourself extra time, and pack for the unexpected.

Between Nov. 17 and Nov. 28, the TSA expects to screen upwards of 30 million passengers at airport checkpoints nationwide.

The busiest travel days will be the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after. That's when the TSA believes they'll break a record for the number of passengers screened, surpassing the record set back on June 30, 2023, when nearly 3 million passengers were screened in one day.

It's a holiday travel comeback that has been anticipated for years.

While reporting on this story, reporter Ryan Jenkins learned that 7 of the 10 busiest days for TSA since 2001 were recorded in 2023.

Milwaukee's Mitchell International Airport has seen an 8% uptick in passengers so far this year. last year, roughly 5.4 million passengers traveled to and from Milwaukee. This year, officials anticipate the airport could see up to 6 million passengers by the time the year is over. That's a number Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport hasn't seen since pre-pandemic 2019.