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What You Need To Know About Navigating Thanksgiving Travel


As Thanksgiving looms just days away, a surge of travelers is expected, setting the stage for what experts predict to be a record-setting Thanksgiving travelweek in the United States.

Millions of Americans are embarking on journeys, utilizing various modes of transportation, leading to a bustling travel landscape. Here's an overview of key aspects to consider for Thanksgiving travel this week:

Anticipating Unprecedented Travel Numbers

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is gearing up for an estimated 30 million passengers taking flight between November 17 and the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.

Simultaneously, AAA projects a 2.3% increase in travel compared to last year, marking the third-highest Thanksgiving travel forecast since the year 2000.

Best And Worst Days To Fly And Drive

Air Travel Insights

  • AAA anticipates 4.7 million travelers to fly, marking a 6.6% increase from the previous year – the highest number since 2005.
  • The busiest and most expensive days to fly are forecasted to be Tuesday, November 21, and Wednesday, November 22.
  • Expedia suggests that Monday, November 20, is the optimal day to fly, with flights expected to be 12% cheaper than on November 22.

Road Travel Insights

  • AAA predicts 55.4 million people will drive 50 miles or more from home, a 2.3% increase from last year.
  • Wednesday, November 22, is projected to be the busiest day on the roads.
  • AAA recommends traveling on Wednesday morning and Sunday morning for road trips during the peak Thanksgiving period.
  • Leaving on Monday post-Thanksgiving is advised to avoid the busy travel day on Sunday.

Airline Preparedness And Expectations

After widespread flight cancellations last year, airlines are taking measures to handle the surge in travelers.

Both American Airlines and United have expanded schedules, enlisted larger planes, and hired tens of thousands of new employees to ensure a smoother travel experience.

Newark Liberty International Airport is anticipated to be among the busiest hubs.

With Thanksgiving cuisine in mind, the TSA allows baked goods like pies, cakes, and brownies in carry-ons. Casseroles, fresh fruits, vegetables, and spices are also acceptable.

However, liquids like wine or champagne, cranberry sauce, canned fruits, and preserves/jams/jellies should be packed in checked baggage.

A major storm is expected to traverse the country from the west coast to the Northeast on Tuesday into Wednesday, potentially impacting travel plans.

Travelers are advised to stay informed about weather conditions, especially those in the New York City and Tri-State area.

Woman in the airport wearing a mask
Woman in the airport wearing a mask

Store And Restaurant Openings On Thanksgiving

For those planning to shop, some retailers will remain open, including Big Lots, CVS, Dollar General, Whole Foods, and Starbucks. However, major stores like Best Buy, Target, and Walmart will close their doors.

Numerous restaurants, from Boston Market to Waffle House, will offer alternatives for those who prefer not to cook or clean up on Thanksgiving.

As Thanksgiving travel unfolds, staying informed, planning ahead, and adapting to potential challenges will contribute to a smoother and more enjoyable holiday experience. Safe travels to all!

Final Words

As Thanksgiving approaches in the United States, a record-setting travel week is anticipated, with millions of Americans embarking on journeys by various means.

From air travel insights and road travel projections to airline preparedness and weather warnings, this overview provides a comprehensive guide for navigating Thanksgiving travel.

Whether flying or driving, being aware of optimal travel times, packing restrictions, and potential weather disruptions will contribute to a smoother holiday experience.

Additionally, information on store and restaurant openings provides options for those planning activities around the Thanksgiving holiday. Wishing everyone safe and pleasant travels during this festive season!

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About The Authors

Jane Resture

Jane Resture- Since she embarked on her first world trip in 2002, Jane Resture spent the past decades sharing her personal journey and travel tips with people around the world. She has traveled to over 80 countries and territories, where she experienced other cultures, wildlife she had only read about in books, new foods, new people, and new amazing experiences. Jane believes that travel is for everyone and it helps us learn about ourselves and the world around us. Her goal is to help more people from more backgrounds experience the joy of exploration because she trusts that travel opens the door to the greatest, most unforgettable experiences life can offer and this builds a kinder, more inclusive, more open-minded world.

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