Holiday travel rush begins to fill highways, airports

Aviation Authority reports more travelers this year than 2020 holiday period

Airports and highways are seeing that holiday swell once again.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Travelers are hitting the roads and taking to the skies for the Thanksgiving holiday, in numbers not seen since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Obviously, much higher this year versus last year,” Michael Stewart, a spokesperson for the Jacksonville Aviation Authority, said. “This is very, very close to 2019. So, we’re just below the highest peak that we’ve had on a Thanksgiving week.”

Passengers and family members who’ve traversed the airports Wednesday advised other travelers to arrive early for their flights, expect delays and longer-than-usual check-ins.

“Definitely just make sure you show up early and don’t want to be late for that flight because if you miss a connecting flight then you’re toast,” Dylan Droege said after flying in from Dallas.

“This is probably the first time a lot of people are getting back together with their families since COVID,” said Peyton McMillin, who flew in from Oklahoma City. “A lot of people are probably excited to be able to get out and travel for Thanksgiving.”

Both the Florida Department of Transportation and the Florida Highway Patrol issued warnings to remind motorists of the importance of seatbelts, vehicle upkeep, speed limits, and driving sober.

“I suggest you not do speed because the cops are definitely out there everywhere,” traveler Jerard Kelley said. “Don’t speed. Just be careful, drive safe. It’s a little crowded out there. But the presence of the police is definitely there.”

Follow these tips from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to help ensure safe traveling this Thanksgiving:

  • Never drive impaired. Celebrate responsibly and do not get behind the wheel if you have been drinking or took drugs that cause impairment. Plan ahead and find a safe way home every time – designate a driver or use a ride service.
  • Check your tires. Tires are a vehicle’s first line of defense on the road. Check your tire pressure, tread depth and spare tire especially before long trips. Do not over load your vehicle, it can result in premature wear and tire blowouts.
  • Buckle up. A seat belt is your vehicle’s most important safety feature. Florida law requires that all drivers, all front seat passengers and all passengers under the age of 18 wear seat belts or the appropriate child restraints. Seat belts save lives, so buckle up every trip, every time.
  • Register or update your Emergency Contact Information (ECI). ECI is a secure system allowing law enforcement, nationwide, to contact designated family or friends in response to an emergency situation.
  • Observe and obey all speed limits. Speed limits may change as you drive through different types of roadways, so make sure you adjust your speed accordingly. In Florida, the limit will never be over 70 mph.