Thanksgiving travel predicted to be brisk, near pre-pandemic levels

This holiday travel week is predicted to see the amount of travelers increase to near pre-pandemic levels and end up the third busiest for Thanksgiving travel since AAA started tracking in 2000.

AAA predicts 54.6 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home this Thanksgiving holiday weekend, which is defined as the Wednesday before Thanksgiving through and including Sunday. That’s a 1.5% increase over 2021 and 98% of pre-pandemic volumes.

In Ohio, travelers will be taking drives and flights as 2.2 million Ohioans plan to travel over the holiday weekend, an increase of 1.3% over last year.

In the region, nearly 20% of people, or about 164,000 residents, will be traveling for the holiday, according to AAA. Much like last year, most of those area travelers — nearly 144,400 — will drive to their destinations this holiday weekend.

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“We’re hearing that people still are feeling like they want to get together with friends,” said AAA Club Alliance spokeswoman Kara Hitchens. “This period of COVID really has impacted folks anxious to get back together with family and friends and even if they did it earlier in the year, people are seeing that those connections, those ties, those family units are so very important that they want to get back together again.”

In Ohio, 1.9 million will be traveling by car, the most popular mode but only a slight increase of .3%, according to AAA. Nationwide, Nearly 49 million people are expected to travel by car. While Thanksgiving road trips are up 0.4% from 2021, car travel remains 2.5% below 2019 levels.

Air travel will see an increase in Ohio, with airports to be crowded with 215,873 people flying, according to AAA.

Linda Hughes, spokeswoman for Dayton International Airport, said the airport, the airlines and TSA are prepared for the heavy holiday traffic and staffing is in place.

“Our load factors for most of this year have been well over 80%, so flights have gone out with few empty seats,” Hughes said. “We expect high load factors for the holiday travel so with that being said it should be business as usual.”

Ohio’s expected increase at the airport is similar to the national trend of an increase of 8% over 2021, with 4.5 million Americans flying to their Thanksgiving destinations this year, according to AAA. That increase of more than 330,000 travelers pushes the volume of travelers to nearly 99% of the 2019 volume.

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Hitchens said that despite the trouble airlines have been having recently, “people are still committed to air travel.”

“What we did see the biggest increase (in terms of travel mode) was what we call “the other”: trains, buses and cruises,” she said, noting that more than 1.4 million travelers are going out of town for Thanksgiving by bus, train, or cruise ship, an increase of 23% from 2021 and 96% of the 2019 volume. “People feel like we’ve moved past COVID.”

Those hitting the road for the holiday weekend are likely to find gas prices continue to fall in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, according to Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, a tech company that operates apps and websites based on finding real-time fuel prices at gas stations.

“I think everyone, all 50 states ... are down from a week ago and that’s a trend that will continue,” De Haan said. “So coast-to-coast (and) interior, as well.

As of last Thursday, there were six Ohio stations under $3, a trend he said would continue. Dayton’s lowest price was $3.27, he said.

Prices “definitely” will not shoot up before Thanksgiving, De Haan said.

“There is tremendous amount of room for stations to go lower. And I do expect that,” he said. “For example, Dayton’s down 15 cents a gallon from a week ago will probably continue at that pace and it may accelerate.

“It’s not impossible that some of the lowest price stations in Dayton could fall under $3 by Thanksgiving,” he said. “So those cheap stations are at about $3.30 right now. We’ll see how ambitious stations get, but if not before Thanksgiving, then the week after.”

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So what’s behind the pre-holiday price drop?

“The market’s coming apart,” De Haan said. “Demand is sluggish at best. Looking at the markets this morning, there were still blinking warning signs of recession. We see more and more layoffs every week for major companies, so the concern of an economic slowdown is growing and during an economic slowdown, Americans don’t buy as much, they don’t drive as much. They may not even have jobs to drive to.”

Those who do plan to hit the road for the holiday weekend can take several steps to ensure an overall better driving experience, Hitchens said.

“We always warn people about the time of day to travel, which can be really kind of tricky,” she said. “The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the most popular travel day. People want to get their location, so we warn people to try to avoid the commuter population ... so leave before rush hour traffic or wait and leave after the evening traffic gets home.”

Those traveling by car should ensure they get their vehicle checked out beforehand, Hitchens said. Those traveling by air should remember to be patient and download the app for the airline on which they are flying to keep up to date on any kind of changes that they may have, she said

Tips for travelers

  • Arrive early: Nearly half of the daily traffic that departs from the Dayton International Airport does so in the early morning. Ensure that you follow your airline’s minimum check-in guidelines, which generally requires that passengers arrive no less than 90 minutes prior to their scheduled departure for domestic travel and two hours for international travel. (Check directly with your airline for specific check-in rules.)
  • 3-1-1 for carry-ons: Liquids, gels, aerosols, creams and pastes must be 3.4 ounces (100ml) or less per container; must be in 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag; 1 bag per passenger placed in screening bin. The bag limits the total liquid volume each traveler can bring through the Security-Check Point area in their carry-on bag.
  • Carry-on correctly: Carry-ons are limited to one suitcase (check with your airline for maximum dimensions) and one personal item such as a purse, laptop or backpack.
  • Prohibited Items: As an added information source for passenger, travelers can use the “Can I Bring…?” tool from the My TSA iPhone and mobile app to get information on an item you want to bring on a plane. You can also access the tool from a mobile device if it has a web browser. For more information go to www.tsa.gov.
  • Checked baggage cut off: Most airlines will stop accepting checked baggage at their ticket counters 30 to 45 minutes prior to the scheduled departure time. This allows the necessary time to scan all bags and safely transport and load them onto your flight. Be sure to arrive at the airport with enough time to properly check your bag prior to the cut off time. It is suggested that you do not pack medication or keys in your checked baggage.
  • Is my flight on time? Before leaving for the airport, always check the status of your flight directly with your airline. A list of toll-free numbers and websites can be found at www.flydayton.com.

SOURCE: Dayton International Airport


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