TRI-CITIES, Tenn. (WJHL) — People across the country will be traveling for Thanksgiving in just a week’s time. AAA is forecasting more than 1.2 million Tennesseans will travel 50 miles or more for Thanksgiving. Most of those travelers are expected to drive, while more than 38,000 are predicted to fly.
For those flying out of the Tri-Cities Airport, Executive Director Gene Cossey said the number of scheduled flights is returning to those seen before the pandemic. He said the airport almost always operates at capacity, meaning traffic in and out of the airport is not expected to increase. However, that may not be the case at other airports.
“The airports they’re going into are going to be busier and more packed than they have been before,” said Cossey. “So what I would always suggest is that people who are traveling, just be prepared for that extra wave of people when they get through their connections.”
Cossey recommends allowing time for travel to the airport and checking bags.
“TSA needs time to scan them [bags],” said Cossey. “Just make sure you’re coming in a little earlier because things will be a little more hectic, even though we won’t be a lot busier than normal.”
For those with connecting flights to nearby cities, they may need to “gate-check” their luggage. At the Tri-Cities, that means dropping off and picking up the bag as one gets on and off the plane. In larger cities, that could be different.
“When you get to the larger airport, if the airplane is just too full, they might force you to check your bag, which means it’ll go all the way to the end destination,” said Cossey. “It kind of relieves you, you don’t have to carry your bag and worry about carrying your bag. I would always offer if they offer to gate check your bag, accept it.”
If travelers decide to drive to the Tri-Cities Airport, Cossey said to allow time for traffic on the way and to get dropped off if possible. Although, he said there is plenty of parking available at the airport.
According to AAA, 90% of Tennesseans who are traveling will be driving, and Wednesday is expected to be the busiest day.
“The days leading up to Thanksgiving are going to be busy as well, particularly in the afternoons,” said Megan Cooper, AAA Spokesperson. “When you have that commuter traffic mixing with those that are heading out of town.”
Cooper suggested avoiding the roads during busy points of the day or even traveling on Thanksgiving Day if the destination is not too far.
Though gas prices are still high, Cooper said that doesn’t seem to be deterring people from traveling.
“What we’re finding is that people are finding other ways to budget for their trip,” said Cooper. “We’re seeing people still take that trip, but they’ll find other ways to save money, maybe eating out less, saving on accommodations, traveling somewhere closer to home, or finding other ways in their trip to save money.”
Gas is proving to be the most expensive factor, but Cooper said it is possible to save money on gas by staying off the roads at the busiest times to avoid idling too long and making sure one’s car is in top condition.
“A better-maintained vehicle is going to get better fuel economy,” said Cooper. “Take a look at your tires, take a look and see if you need an oil change, take a look at your filters.”
AAA also offers services through its app to find nearby gas stations, their prices and a gas cost calculator. While preparing for a road trip in these colder temperatures, Cooper also recommends adding cold-weather materials to emergency kits, including ice scrapers and warm clothing.
Both Cossey and Cooper said now is the time to start planning Christmas and New Year travel to ensure the best price and the most options.