Thanksgiving is traditionally the busiest travel holiday of the year, so we put together some suggestions and strategies as you head over the river and through the woods. And to the airport.
KSTP had AAA's 2013 forecast, which finds there will be a decrease of 1.5 percent in the number of Americans traveling 50 miles or more over the holiday. That still means 43 million of us will be on the move. The average distance traveled will increase from 588 miles in 2012 to 601 miles this year.
AAA says 90 percent of travelers will drive. The Washington Post looked at traditional patterns for motorists and reported that roads are busiest with getaway traffic on Wednesday. The International Business Times says that's when 37 percent of travelers are on the move. Highways will be less busy Thanksgiving morning. If you plan a quick retreat, Thanksgiving Friday is good for travel except for congestion near malls. Sunday afternoon and evening are busiest for returning traffic.
Add the cost of gasoline to your Thankful List. On Sunday, Twin Cities Gas Prices reported that fuel supplies will remain stable. Prices for a gallon of unleaded in the metro were as low as $2.85 and averaged $3.06. That's about twenty cents less per gallon than one year ago, and the lowest level for the Thanksgiving holiday since 2010.
The Associated Press reported the average domestic airfare is up 9.5% from last Thanksgiving. Hotel rates stayed flat this year, and car rental prices saw a 6 percent hike.
Expect big crowds at Minneapolis-St Paul International, which made Orbitz's list of the ten busiest airports this holiday. Planes are expected to fly at about 85 percent capacity. Taking MTC's light rail to either MSP terminal can be an efficient way to get there, letting travelers scoot past traffic snags and avoid bottlenecks at parking ramps.
WCCO's website reminds travelers to allow extra time to get through security. Most airlines feature online check-in and let travelers print their boarding pass, which allows those without checked bags to head directly to the TSA. This is especially helpful for travelers using Southwest, since there are no reserved seats in the coach section and those who check in earlier can board earlier.
All bets are off if winter weather hits. Brace yourself, travelers: the Associated Press reports an Arctic mass is on the horizon for Tuesday and Wednesday as people hit the roads and airports. Already flight delays are expected at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, and a spokeswoman said deicing equipment was being prepared as officials planned for the worst.
"It's certainly going to be a travel impact as we see the first few people making their way for Thanksgiving," National Weather Service meteorologist Tom Bradshaw said. But he said the system is tricky because a couple of degrees will determine whether regions see rain, sleet or snow. "It's slow moving and it's sort of bringing its energy out in pieces so it's kind of hard to time these as they come across with a great deal of accuracy."