Airports Will Be The Busiest They've Been for Thanksgiving Since 2019

AAA predicts that air travel will recover to 99% of the levels from before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Editor's Note: We know COVID-19 is continuing to impact your travel plans. Should you travel now, be sure to familiarize yourself with the CDC's latest guidance on domestic and international travel as well as local requirements, protocols, and restrictions for both your destination upon your arrival and your home city upon your return. Be safe out there.

For many, 2019 was the last year where holiday planning could be considered anything close to normal. The holidays through 2020 and 2021 were profoundly confusing and dominated by risky navigations of new public health concerns. Now in 2022, many people are resuming travel plans.

AAA predicts that 54,6 million people will travel at least 50 miles from home for Thanksgiving this year. The company's forecast predicts this will be the third busiest Thanksgiving travel period since AAA first started tracking the data in 2007.

"Families and friends are eager to spend time together this Thanksgiving, one of the busiest for travel in the past two decades," Paula Twidale, AAA's senior vice president of travel, said in a statement. "Plan ahead and pack your patience, whether you're driving or flying."

According to Reuters, United Airlines predicts more than 5.5 million passengers will travel with the airline between November 18 and November 30. Similarly, Delta Air Lines told Reuters that the company expects to fly around six million passengers between November 17 and November 29.

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

And, with all of this increased demand, it is no surprise that the cost of Thanksgiving travel has also increased. Kayak reports domestic flight prices are up 46% for Thanksgiving and 47% for Christmas. The trip to see your family and indulge in a large feast may hurt your pockets a bit more than usual.

Google Maps also shared insights about the turkey travel surge. The service evaluated Thanksgiving traffic patterns across more than 20 major US cities in 2021 and used the data to share some crucial advice. If you're planning on driving instead of flying, Google Maps recommends avoiding the roads between 4 pm and 5 pm on Tuesday and Wednesday. That will be when Thanksgiving traffic will likely be at its worst. On the way home, try to avoid the roads at 4 pm on Saturday and Sunday.

No matter how you plan on traveling this holiday season, make sure you are keeping safety in mind. Try to avoid large crowds for the week or so before you plan on traveling and take at-home COVID-19 tests to reduce the likelihood of spreading the illness. It would be a shame to brave the holiday transit hustle only to spend the time trying to recover from getting sick.

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Opheli Garcia Lawler is a Staff Writer on the News team at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @opheligarcia and Instagram @opheligarcia.