JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It’s one of the busiest travel weeks of the year, and it’s expected to break records for the Thanksgiving holiday as millions take to the skies and hit the roads for their destinations.
AAA predicts nearly 55 Americans will travel at least 50 miles from their homes this week. That’s a 1.5% increase over last year and a 2% rise from the year before.
The Auto Club estimates that 49 million will travel by car.
Drivers are advising patience on the roadways. Transportation experts are too, saying if you still have some miles to go for your holiday plans, plan ahead, leave earlier, and most of all, stay calm.
“Be patient. There are a lot of erratic drivers just trying to get places. So just be patient. And there are lots of speed traps,” Edwin Williams, who was going from Virginia to St. Petersburg for his holiday, told News4JAX on Wednesday.
Williams said the roads have been busier than usual.
“Traffic has been really heavy. Yesterday, there was a bad accident on I-95, which we managed to get off before it but it shut down the entire interstate for a little bit,” Williams said. “And today, obviously, the traffic is pretty heavy.”
Charles Goff, on the other hand, said he’s had an easy time as he travels from one family gathering in the Carolinas to another in Fort Myers.
“This has been a breeze if you ask me. Charlotte’s 10 times worse than this as far as driving around,” Goff said.
Experts recommend driving early in the morning and before 11 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day. They say, if you can, you should avoid traveling between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Meanwhile, AAA expects 4.5 million people to board planes during the Thanksgiving holiday.
At the nation’s airports, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, 48,000 flights took off Tuesday — at least 1,000 more flights than a typical travel day.
And the coming days are not expected to slow down. The holiday travel rush comes as U.S. airlines are operating fewer flights — 13% fewer than the same week in 2019. But, on average, the planes in the air are bigger and carry more people, so the number of seats is only down about 2%.
News4JAX on Wednesday spoke with some travelers at Jacksonville International Airport about what they expected and what they experienced.
For those navigating the airports, like Pricila and Danny Brevedello, it’s a little hectic.
“We actually came in different flights. She came from Columbus, I came from Miami, and we triangulate it in Atlanta,” Danny Brevedello said. “And Atlanta was difficult to walk through those corridors.”
Taylor Nason came down from Memphis and also flew through Atlanta, the nation’s busiest airport.
“When I got to the airport, actually, I saw the parking was terrible. Like, I had never had to park on the top floor, but I did. So I knew it was going to be pretty bad,” Nason said. “The line was definitely a little bit longer in Memphis, but they got us through very smoothly.”
According to the FAA, the busiest days during Thanksgiving week are Tuesday, Wednesday and especially the Sunday after the holiday. Because of that, the agency is boosting its staff by 10% to accommodate the extra rush.
And speaking of accommodation, the U.S. military announced that it would clear some airspace to help prevent a traffic jam in the sky.
So what should you do if you are flying this week?
“I would say the biggest worry is probably your TSA lines, as usual,” Nason said.
Pricila and Danny Brevedello said, “Just give yourself a little extra time.”
The Transportation Security Administration expects airports to be busier than last year and probably about on par with 2019, before the pandemic. That year, the Sunday after Thanksgiving was the TSA’s busiest day on record — when nearly 2.9 million people were screened through checkpoints.