AAA forecasts more than 54 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home over the Thanksgiving holiday, compared to nearly 51 million who traveled in 2017. The 2018 holiday weekend will see the highest Thanksgiving travel volume since 2005, when 58.6 million people traveled.
Thanksgiving travelers got off to a good start thanks to favorable weather across most of the U.S., but wet and frigid forecasts threatened to make driving more challenging in the next day or two.
Flight delays piled up at airports around the country, with the largest number of delays at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, but the number of cancellations was low. Locally, it was smooth sailing at LaGuardia, JFK and Newark airports, but travelers were advised to get the to airport as early as possible on one of the busiest travel days of the year.
The Port Authority estimates that 1.7 million people are flying in and out of the New York area Wednesday. That's up 55,000 from last year, thanks in part to the good economy.
But drivers are urged to watch out for all of the construction, budgeting for extra travel time.
The westbound 495 viaduct from the Lincoln Tunnel into southbound I-95 (the eastern spur of the New Jersey Turnpike) is expected to be one of the worst traffic hot spots in the entire nation, according to AAA.
Based on historical and recent travel trends, experts predict drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion Thanksgiving week during the early evening commute period.
"Thanksgiving is one of the busiest holidays for road trips, and this year will be no different," said Trevor Reed, a transportation analyst at INRIX. "Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic. Our advice to drivers is to avoid commuting times in major cities altogether or plan alternative routes."
In most cases, the best days to travel will be on Thanksgiving Day, Friday or Saturday. Drivers should expect increased travel times on Sunday as most holiday travelers will be making their way home after the long weekend.
At the airports, travelers are encouraged to use public transportation. For those heading to LaGuardia, the Q70 bus is free all weekend.
Travelers should also prepare for long lines at airport checkpoints. The Transportation Security Administration expects to screen about 25 million people, an increase of 5 percent over last year.
The Sunday following Thanksgiving is expected to be one of TSA's 10 busiest days ever. Officials expect most returning passengers to fly home Sunday or Monday.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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