Thanksgiving travel: What to know for the holiday weekend

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Thursday, November 25, 2021
Holiday travel surge underway across Tri-State
Anthony Johnson reports LaGuardia and other airports are expected to see the largest crush of passengers since before the pandemic.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Airports and roads may seem jam-packed as AAA predicts 53.4 million people to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday. That's an 80% increase from last year after many missed a typical holiday celebration due to the pandemic.

Here is everything you need to know about travel, gathering with family and enjoying the holiday this year.

RELATED: Weather could make for messy travel ahead of Thanksgiving



AAA predicts 53.4M people to travel on the roads and skies for the Thanksgiving holiday (11/24-11/28) -- up 13% from 2020.

This year's forecast marks the highest single-year increase in Thanksgiving travelers since 2005, bringing travel volumes close to pre-pandemic levels in 2019, according to AAA. Of that 53.4M number, AAA says 48.3M will travel on the road, 4.2M will travel by air, and 1M will travel via other modes of transportation.


AAA says in New York, drivers hit peak congestion on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, between 2:30 and 4:30 p.m.

The worst corridor is I-495 E, Borden Ave to Little Neck Parkway.

Also, as travel restrictions remain in flux, it's essential to know requirements and recommendations based on your vaccination status, where you're traveling from and your destination. AAA's COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Map and are also helpful resources travelers may use for free to understand closures, recommendations and requirements when traveling in the U.S.

Joe Torres has more on how the nation is preparing for pre-pandemic levels of Thanksgiving travel.


According to Kayak, the average cost per day of a rental car is up 75% compared to 2019, and up 66% compared to 2020.

Searches for rental cars are up 230% compared to 2019, the site site said. The most expensive markets for the Thanksgiving holiday are New York City ($135 per day) and Charleston, SC ($123 per day).


TSA is prepping a busy Thanksgiving travel period -- with travel volumes expected to reach 2019 pre-pandemic levels.

The agency said it expects the Sunday after Thanksgiving to be the busiest travel day of the year -- with an estimated 2.4M passengers on 11/28. It expects 2-2.1M passengers on 11/23, 11/24, 11/27, and 11/29. TSA said it's "confident" and it has the staffing needed to manage the holiday travel crush.

Air travelers should keep these tips in mind:

1. Wear a mask. Travelers, TSA personnel, and other aviation workers are required to wear a mask as prescribed by the federal mask mandate. Everyone in airports, bus and rail stations, on passenger aircraft, public transportation, passenger railroads, and over-the-road buses operating on scheduled fixed-routes must wear a mask. If a traveler did not bring a mask, a TSA officer will offer a mask to that individual at the screening checkpoint.

2. Pack smart. Prepare for security when packing and ensure that there are no prohibited items in baggage. Know which foods should go into a checked bag. Gravy, cranberry sauce, wine, jam, and preserves should all go into a checked bag, because they are not solids. If you can spill it, spray it, spread it, pump it or pour it, then it's not a solid and should be packed in a checked bag. As always, passengers can bring solid foods such as cakes and other baked goods through the checkpoints.

3. It's okay to bring hand sanitizer. TSA is currently allowing travelers to bring one liquid hand sanitizer container up to 12 ounces per passenger in carry-on bags until further notice. Passengers can expect all containers larger 3.4 ounces will need to be screened separately, which will add some time to their checkpoint experience. Travelers also are permitted to bring alcohol wipes or anti-bacterial wipes in carry-on, checked luggage, or both.

4. Enroll in or renew your TSA PreCheck membership. Individuals who obtained TSA PreCheck five years ago are now able to renew their membership online at a discount. Individuals who do not have TSA PreCheck should enroll now to get TSA PreCheck benefits, available at more than 200 U.S. airports. Travelers enrolled in a trusted traveler program, like TSA PreCheck, do not need to remove shoes, laptops, liquids, belts and light jackets. TSA PreCheck membership is more valuable now than ever before because it reduces touchpoints during the pandemic and puts travelers in security lines that have fewer travelers and move quicker, which encourages social distancing. To find the trusted traveler program that best suits your travel needs, use the DHS trusted traveler comparison tool.

5. Request passenger support. Travelers or families of passengers with disabilities and/or medical conditions may call the TSA Cares helpline toll free at 855-787-2227 at least 72 hours prior to flying with any questions about screening policies, procedures and to find out what to expect at the security checkpoint. TSA Cares also arranges assistance at the checkpoint.

6. Get your questions answered before you head to the airport. Ask TSA. Travelers can get assistance in real time by submitting their questions and comments to @AskTSA on Twitter or Facebook Messenger. Travelers can also reach the TSA Contact Center at 866-289-9673. Staff is available from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends/holidays; and an automated service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

7. Ensure you have proper ID. Before heading to the airport, travelers should make sure they have acceptable identification. Identity verification is an important step in the security screening process.

8. Remain aware. As a reminder, public awareness is key for supporting TSA's security efforts. Travelers are encouraged to report suspicious activities, and remember: If You See Something, Say Something. For additional information about TSA's screening policies, visit


The TSA held a show-and-tell before the holiday to demonstrate which foods can go in carry-ons and which must be checked.

Basked 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/james/jellies.


The last update TSA gave regarding employee vaccinations was three weeks ago -- with 40% of its workforce not having received a single shot. This comes as the November 22 deadline for federal workers to be vaccinated approaches.

However, a source familiar said the Thanksgiving holiday won't be impacted by potential terminations. According to the source, after the Nov. 22 deadline, TSA employees who are not fully vaccinated will get called to have a discussion with supervisors and be counseled and educated on getting vaccinated. If workers do not get vaccinated following the first meeting, they will then receive a warning. Following the warning, workers will then be subject to termination.


According to Hopper, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International will be the busiest airport on Thanksgiving Weekend, with 154k departing seats on Wednesday, November 24th, according to travel booking app Hopper. DFW and LAX follow as the second and third busiest airports.

New York City makes the top 10 with JFK Airport coming in at #9 on the list of busiest airports.


-From 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, November 23, to 11:59 p.m. Sunday, November 28, the Port Authority and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) will provide free LaGuardia Link Q70 bus service to encourage the use of mass transit to and from the airport.

-At all hours, free shuttle buses operate between all LaGuardia Airport terminals for passengers and employees making terminal connections.

-To help ease congestion at Newark Liberty International Airport, the Central Terminal Area (CTA) Parking (Short-Term Parking) is now cashless. The change provides more payment options, including contactless payment and designated E-Z Pass lanes on entry and exit.Clickherefor parking availability and advanced parking reservations.

-Due to ongoing construction at Newark Liberty International Airport for a new state-of-the-art Terminal A, all airline passengers departing from Terminal A are urged to arrive no later than two hours prior to scheduled departure times.


NJ TRANSIT is adding additional service for Thanksgiving.

Before the pandemic, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving was typically the busiest day of the year at Newark Airport's rail station, with ridership levels about twice that of a typical weekday. To accommodate the increased holiday travel and provide additional capacity for customers traveling to Newark Liberty International Airport, as well as those leaving work early to begin the festivities, NJ TRANSIT will once again offer "early getaway" rail and bus service on Wednesday, November 24.

Customers are required to wear masks while inside waiting rooms and on board all public transit vehicles regardless of physical distance through January 18, 2022, per the Transit Security Administration's (TSA's) federal directive.

For the Thanksgiving holiday, NJ TRANSIT's Family SuperSaver Fare, which allows up to two children 11 and younger to travel free with each fare-paying adult, will be in effect from 7 p.m. Wednesday, November 24 until 6 a.m. Monday, November 29.

On Thanksgiving Day, November 25, NJ TRANSIT will add extra trains and buses to the schedule in the morning and early afternoon hours to accommodate customers traveling to/from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.

Then on Friday, November 26, traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year, bus service will be offered to shopping centers throughout New Jersey. Rail service will operate on a weekend/major holiday schedule with additional service for those working this day.

Special holiday timetables are available on


-PATH service will operate on a modified schedule on Thursday, November 25, and Friday, November 26, and on regular Saturday and Sunday schedules over the weekend. On Thursday, November 25, from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., trains will operate on a modified Saturday schedule with additional JSQ-33 via HOB service. On Friday, November 26, trains will operate on a modified weekday schedule with all four lines operating on 10-minute schedules during daytime and early evening hours. For additional information on PATH service and train schedules, visit or download the PATH mobile app, RidePath.

-The southwest entrance to the PATH Harrison station remains closed at all hours to accommodate demolition work ahead of arenovation of the station. During construction, riders are required to use traffic signal pedestrian crossings at Angelo Cifelli Drive and Guyon Drive to access a corresponding station house on the opposite side of Frank E. Rodgers Boulevard.

-Customers who use the WTC PATH station during overnights should use the street level entrances at Fulton Street or Vesey Street via the North Concourse in the 2 World Trade Center Transit Lobby. Oculus access is limited overnightfrom 1 5 a.m.toallow for enhanced cleaning and the safety and security of customers due to reduced traffic volumes. All other entrances will be closed.Formore updates on the WTC campus, clickhere.

-From 5 a.m. Wednesday, November 24, to 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, November 30, the 9 Street and 23 Street stations will remain open at all hours.


Through 5 a.m. Monday, November 29, non-emergency construction work is suspended at all Port Authority crossings, including overnight closures related to the Superstorm Sandy repair and resiliency project at the Holland Tunnel.


JFK International Airport

LaGuardia Airport

Newark Liberty International Airport

Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)

Long Island Railroad

Metro-North Railroad

NYC Ferry Services

New Jersey Transit

Connecticut Commuter Rail (Shore Line East)



If you and your family are vaccinated against COVID-19, White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci gave the thumbs up on gathering for the holidays.

Fauci warned that cases are still high, so people should wear masks when they're out and about in the community and around groups of people in indoor settings.

"But when you're with your family at home, goodness, enjoy it with your parents, your children, your grandparents. There's no reason not to do that," Fauci said.


Get your holiday themed masks and porch heaters ready. Masks and outdoor gatherings will still be the best way to make holiday gatherings safe this year, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in its latest guidance.

By masking up and getting vaccinated, families have much better options than last year when the CDC had steered people away from travel and gathering in person in the era before vaccines.

"By working together, we can enjoy safer holidays, travel, and protect our own health as well as the health of our family and friends," the CDC said.



The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is back this year, with precautions. Last year's celebration was made for TV only, but this year's parade will include spectators and march on the streets of Manhattan on Thursday, November 25 beginning at 9 a.m. On Thanksgiving Day.

"Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade has been a New York City institution for more than nine decades, growing to become an icon of American pop culture as it annually marks the official start of the holiday season," said Will Coss, Executive Producer of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. "For our 95th celebration, we are delighted to return this cherished holiday tradition closer to its original form as we march down the streets of New York City and into the homes of a nationwide audience."

The spectacle will once again delight New York City spectators and a national television audience with its signature mix of giant character helium balloons, fantastic floats, marching bands, performance groups, celebrities, clowns, and the one-and-only Santa Claus.


Last year, many stores abandoned their late-night Thanksgiving hours because of COVID-19, and most of them plan to carry that practice into 2021.

Target, Walmart and more announced earlier in the year that they'll close their doors on Turkey Day for a second consecutive year. Big retailers are starting to push back on the decades-long trend of starting in-store shopping after supper, pushing consumers to hunt for Black Friday sales online.

Yet some companies, like big-name drugstore CVS Health and supermarket chain Whole Foods Market, will remain open on Thursday, Nov. 25, with regular holiday hours at most locations.


Thanksgiving can be a stressful time to find a place to eat. Many restaurants have limited hours or are closed altogether.

If you find yourself needing to go out to eat Thanksgiving Day, consider calling the restaurant in advance to make sure they are open, as some specific locations may have different holiday hours. Check the full list of what will be open.


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