Everything you need to know about traveling this Thanksgiving

TSA expects about 30 million passengers to fly between the start of the travel weekend and Tuesday after Thanksgiving.

WABC logo
Wednesday, November 22, 2023
Families try to avoid traffic during Thanksgiving holiday travel
Anthony Johnson has more as travelers hit the road ahead of Thanksgiving.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Thanksgiving is just one day away and millions of Americans are leaving home for the holiday.

Whether by plane, train or automobile, experts are predicting a record-setting travel week.

However, the weather did snarl air and road traffic. A storm system moved from the southern Plains to the Northeast on Tuesday and into Wednesday morning, bringing severe thunderstorms, gusty wind and even some snow.

Wednesday is one of the busiest days to fly as well as the Sunday after Thanksgiving. The Transportation Security Administration expects to screen 2.7 million passengers on Wednesday. Sunday will draw the largest crowds with an estimated 2.9 million passengers, which would narrowly eclipse a record set on June 30.

Meanwhile, AAA forecasts that 55.4 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home between Wednesday and the Sunday after Thanksgiving, with roads likely to be the most clogged on Wednesday.

As the busiest travel season arrives in full swing, there are a few things to consider.

Here's everything you need to know about Thanksgiving travel this week:

Best, worst days to fly and drive

The busiest and most expensive days to fly before Thanksgiving were Tuesday, Nov. 21, and Wednesday, Nov. 22, according to AAA.

Demand for travel the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is only up 3%.

The days right after Thanksgiving are still the busiest. Sunday, Nov. 26, will be one of United's busiest travel days since before the pandemic with more than 517,000 people expected to fly with the airline, about 60,000 more passengers than the Sunday after Thanksgiving last year.

United expects to have its busiest ever Thanksgiving this year, with more than 5.9 million people flying the airline during the holiday travel period. Nearly 5% more customers than 2019 and 13% vs last year.

When it comes to the road, the best times to travel during the peak Thanksgiving period are on Wednesday morning and Sunday morning, AAA says.

Give yourself plenty of time for traveling, whether you will be flying or driving. After Thanksgiving, Sunday will be a busy travel day, so experts suggest leaving Monday if possible.

How busy will airline travel be?

After the travel rush caused widespread flight cancellations last year, airlines believe they're ready and have hired on tens of thousands of new employees.

American Airlines has both expanded its schedule for the busy holiday period and enlisted larger planes to handle the high volume of travelers. while United has added more than 550,000 seats to meet the increased demand of the holidays.

United Airlines has hired more than 13,000 new employees and that their deicing trucks are ready to go.

Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) is expected to be among our busiest hubs during this travel period.

Because each airline is different, the Department of Transportation has a airline customer service dashboard where travelers can read what each airline will give you if the delay or cancellation is their fault.

What you can and cannot pack in your carry-on

With food on everyone's mind ahead of the holiday, you might be wondering what you can bring.

Baked goods like pies, cakes and brownies can be carried through a TSA checkpoint. Casseroles, fresh fruits and vegetables and spices are all acceptable as well.

The following foods should go in your checked baggage: cranberry sauce, liquids like wine or champagne, canned fruit or vegetables and preserves/jams/jellies.

Unsure if an item should be packed in a carry-on bag, checked bag, either or neither? Download the free myTSA app, which has a handy "What can I bring?" feature that allows you to type in the item to find out if it can fly. Or ask on Twitter or Facebook Messenger at @AskTSA. Travelers may send a question by texting "Travel" to AskTSA (275-872).

Additionally, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration also has recommendations on holiday food safety.

Travel Forecast

A major storm will cross the country beginning on the west coast will travel into the Northeast Tuesday into Wednesday.

We have an AccuWeather Alert for the New York City and Tri-State area Tuesday into Wednesday, when millions of people are likely to be traveling.

The good news however is that Thanksgiving should be dry in the New York City area, but chilly. Post-Thanksgiving travel the following weekend should be much quieter.

What stores are open, closed on Thanksgiving?

If you're planning to shop before or after you eat this Thanksgiving, some retailers will keep their doors open while others will not.

Big Lots, CVS, Dollar General, Whole Foods, Starbucks and more announced that they'll be open on Turkey Day. However, Best Buy, BJ's Wholesale Club, Target, Walmart will close their doors. Check the full list for what will be open and closed.

Restaurants open on Thanksgiving?

Don't feel like cooking or cleaning up this holiday? From Boston Market to Waffle House, there will be plenty of options this Nov. 23. For a full list, head here.

RELATED Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade 2023: Start time, balloons, performers and more

The 2023 Macy's Thanksgiving Parade will feature six new balloons.


* Get Eyewitness News Delivered

* Follow us on YouTube

* More local news

* Send us a news tip

* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts

Submit a tip or story idea to Eyewitness News

Have a breaking news tip or an idea for a story we should cover? Send it to Eyewitness News using the form below. If attaching a video or photo, terms of use apply.