Transportation experts say they are anticipating fuller highways, airports and hotels as travel in general is expected to be up as much as it was before COVID-19 took hold ahead of Thanksgiving and the rest of the holidays.
“People have not seen their loved ones for two years,” said Julie McManus, president of World Travel Agency at the Williamsport Regional Airport in Montoursville.
She said bookings are returning to pre-pandemic levels, and while frustration exists among some customers of the agency and others due to the local airport not having a commercial carrier at this time, McManus said she can link those traveling to other larger airports.
“The agency even has a driver service to connect travlers to airports,” she said.
Airports in State College, Allentown, Harrisburg, Scranton-Wilkes-Barre, Philadelphia and Baltimore are being used by local travelers, she said.
All indications are people with family in distant locations and vice versa want to see each other at all costs.
In fact, this past Friday, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) indicated its workers experienced the highest volume of travelers checked through airports since before the pandemic, McManus said.
World Travel Agency has booked trips, too, such as those to Disney World and Universal Studios through Christmas and New Year’s Day and the agency can provide national and international packages.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regulations requiring masks and millions vaccinated have eased the minds of travelers and that means higher volumes can be expected.
What to expect
It means airports and roads are likely to be jam-packed this year as AAA predicts more than 53 million people to travel in various modes for the Thanksgiving holiday, which is up 13% from 2020, according to AAA.
This brings travel volumes within 5% of pre-pandemic levels in 2019, with air travel almost completely recovering from its dramatic fall during the pandemic, up 80% over last year. As restrictions continue to lift and consumer confidence builds, AAA urges travelers to be proactive when making their travel plans this holiday season.
“This Thanksgiving, travel will look a lot different than last year,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president, AAA Travel. “Now that the borders are open and new health and safety guidelines are in place, travel is once again high on the list for Americans who are ready to reunite with their loved ones for the holidays.”
Arrive at the airport early so you’ll have plenty of time to get through longer TSA lines and other travel checkpoints. For domestic travel, AAA suggests two hours ahead of departure time and three hours for international.
Consider booking a flight during non-peak travel periods to cut down on wait times.
Despite gasoline prices at the pumps averaging about $1 more than they were last year at this time, it is expected more Americans will hit the highways as the preferred and obvious most convenient form of travel.
Typically, AAA expects to respond to more than 400,000 people asking for help over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
If a vehicle has been sitting idle, AAA suggests getting an mechanic to check out key components such as the battery, fuel system, tires, brakes and fluid levels.
These systems are particularly vulnerable to deteriorating if a vehicle sits too long without proper care or maintenance.
Hit the road when there is less traffic and allow for extra time when traveling to your destination.
Watch for weather alerts and adjust travel accordingly.