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Thanksgiving holiday to have record number of travelers

November 20, 2018

The long Thanksgiving holiday will have the highest volume of travelers in a dozen years, according to AAA Northeast.

The estimated 54.3 million people who will be traveling by vehicles, trains and planes is nearly 5 percent more than last year.

Why the increase?

“Consumers have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season: Higher wages, more disposable income and rising levels of household wealth,” said Bill Sutherland, AAA Travel senior vice president. “This is translating into more travelers kicking off the holiday season with a Thanksgiving getaway, building on a positive year for the travel industry.”

AAA counts the Thanksgiving holiday period from Wednesday to Monday, Nov. 25.

Worst traffic times

Because 89 percent will be traveling by vehicle, expect roads like I-95, I-91, I-84 and the Merritt and Wilbur Cross parkways to be jammed with traffic.

Based on historical travel trends, motorists will experience the greatest amount of traffic on Tuesday evening on Nov. 20 during rush hour when commuters mix with holiday travelers. If you’re heading to New York or Boston, you may see traffic delays four times longer than normal drive times between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday and Sunday afternoon/evening is also expected to have heavy traffic.

A very cold Thanksgiving

The National Weather Service says Thanksgiving could be one of the coldest on records.

The Big Freeze will move in late on Wednesday, followed by Canadian high pressure building in for Thursday.

It will be blustery and cold on Thanksgiving, with highs mainly in the lower to mid 20s, with some upper 20s possible in New York City. This is around 20 to 25 degrees below normal.

These temperatures, coupled with northwest winds gusting to 25 to 40 mph will have wind chills only from around 5 to 10 degrees above zero by late Thanksgiving afternoon.

Gas prices

“Thanksgiving has always been one of the busiest holidays for road trips,” Fran Mayko, AAA Northeast spokeswoman, said in a release. “And this year will be no different despite the highest gas prices we’re paying in four years.”

The national average for a gallon of self-serve regular is 21 cents higher than last year while in Connecticut average prices are a quarter higher. Despite those increases, average prices on the national and state level have been dropping slowly but steadily.

“But no matter the cost of fuel, people generally travel on Thanksgiving because it’s a holiday for family and friends to gather,” said Mayko. “That desire to spend time with loved ones drives an increase in travel volume.”

Airports

Eigth percent of travelers or 4.27 million will fly to a destination; up 5.4 percent compared to last year.

Transportation Security Administration checkpoints across the country this Thanksgiving season is expected to be extremely high.

From Friday, Nov. 16 through Monday, Nov. 26, more than 25 million travelers, one of TSA’s busiest Thanksgivings on record, will be screened at airport checkpoints during the holiday travel period, nearly a 7 percent increase compared to last year.

The busiest travel days will be the Tuesday and Wednesday leading up to Thanksgiving and the Sunday after Thanksgiving. The Sunday after Thanksgiving is projected to break into TSA’s top 10 busiest days ever.

At Westchester County Airport in White Plains, typically 2,200 to 2,500 passengers and crew are screened at the TSA checkpoint daily, but during the busy Thanksgiving holiday travel period, more than 3,000 individuals are expected to be screened daily, an increase of more than 20 percent, which is why travelers are encouraged to get to the airport early.

Meanwhile, in the immediate New York metropolitan area, John F. Kennedy International Airport will see the largest volume of passengers and crew coming through the airport checkpoints with more than 100,000 passengers per day expected in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. At Newark Liberty International Airport, up to 70,000 individuals will be screened daily during the holiday and at LaGuardia Airport, about 48,000 people will go through TSA checkpoints during the Thanksgiving travel period daily.

At Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Kevin A. Dillon, executive director of the Connecticut Airport Authority, urged travelers to plan accordingly, warning wait times could be long to get through security at Bradley.

He said Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday are expected to have the heaviest volume of passengers.

Those traveling domestically should give themselves at least 90 minutes to check in with their airlines and be screened by TSA. Passengers traveling internationally should give themselves three hours.

Passengers are encouraged to confirm their flight status before departure, check in online with the airline and bring a printed boarding pass to the airport.

TSA also has tips on how to turkey trot on your way through the airport here

Metro-North

Buy your tickets in advance. Thanksgiving is the busiest travel day of the year, and if you’re leaving New York after the parade, you must have your ticket before boarding your train at Grand Central or Harlem-125th Street Station.

On Wednesday,there are 18 getaway trains;

On Thursday, there are additional inbound trains for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, there are additional shopper trains.

For all schedules click here (http://web.mta.info/mnr/html/planning/schedules/index.html)

Law enforcement

With tens of thousands of travelers driving through Connecticut during the Thanksgiving week, State Police are ramping up their plans to keep highways safe for all during the holiday rush.

Beginning on 12:01 a.m. Wednesday and running through 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, state police will supplement its normal routine patrol personnel with additional troopers. Across the state, troopers will patrol roads and highways across Connecticut focusing on aggressive drivers, unsafe drivers and drunk drivers.

In addition, the state and local police- in cooperation with the State Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration - will conduct a seatbelt enforcement wave from through Sunday.

“Troopers are committed to reducing crashes through preventive enforcement initiatives such as roving DUI patrols,” state police said in a release. “Troopers will also be looking for violators who cause accidents on state roads and highways. Every effort to reduce accidents will be taken.

“Connecticut residents are asked to be a part of the public safety solution by obeying traffic laws: don’t follow too closely to cars around you, drive the speed limit, stay off your cell phone while driving. If you plan to consume alcohol, please do not drive; designate a driver for everyone’s safety.

“Residents should remind all young people, especially college students returning home for the holiday weekend, of the laws regarding alcohol consumption and drinking and driving.”

Troopers will use traditional and non-traditional patrol cars to observe traffic and issue tickets to reckless and distracted drivers.

A reminder to all drivers: anyone who is consuming alcohol should never get behind the wheel.

If you see a suspected drunk driver or a reckless driver, please call 911, as this is a true emergency.

AAA’s top five Thanksging travel destinations

1. Orlando, Florida

2. New York, N.Y.

3. Anaheim, California

4. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

5. Las Vegas, Nevada

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