Thanksgiving travel expected to increase: Tips for drivers, flyers this holiday season

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Travel expert shares what to expect this holiday season

Rosewood hotels and resorts president Radha Arora discusses what to expect during the holiday season and shares top vacation sites for travelers.

The number of people traveling during Thanksgiving is expected to increase this year to just shy of pre-pandemic levels.

AAA predicts that 54.6 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home this year. That marks a 1.5% increase over 2021 and 98% of pre-pandemic volumes, making it the third-busiest for Thanksgiving travel since 2000.

Most travelers will drive, with nearly 49 million expected to travel by car – although car travel remains 2.5% below 2019 levels.

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An airplane flies over the Washington Monument on Nov. 24, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images / Getty Images)

Meanwhile, 4.5 million Americans are expected to fly during this year's long holiday weekend, a nearly 8% increase over 2021. According to AAA, that's an uptick of more than 330,000 travelers and nearly 99% of the 2019 volume.

"Airport parking spaces fill up fast, so reserve a spot ahead of time and arrive early," said Paula Twidale, AAA’s senior vice president of travel. "Anticipate long TSA lines. If possible, avoid checking a bag to allow for more flexibility if flights are delayed or you need to reschedule."

The day before Thanksgiving, holiday travelers arrive at the Moynihan train hall in Penn Station, Nov. 24, 2021, in New York City. (Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images / Getty Images)

More than 1.4 million travelers are taking a bus, train or cruise ship – a figure that is up 23% from 2021 and 96% of the 2019 volume.

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Analytics company INRIX expects severe congestion in several U.S. metro areas, including Atlanta, Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles, with some drivers experiencing more than double the normal delays. 

Traffic slows on the Harbor Freeway in downtown Los Angeles on Thanksgiving getaway day, Nov. 24, 2021. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images / Getty Images)

Recommended travel is early in the morning on Wednesday or before 11 a.m. local time on Thanksgiving Day. 

Drivers should avoid travel between 4 and 8 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. 

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"Families and friends are eager to spend time together this Thanksgiving, one of the busiest for travel in the past two decades," Twidale said. "Plan ahead and pack your patience, whether you’re driving or flying."

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