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Thanksgiving Travel Begins, Up Slightly Over Last Year

by Katie Pyzyk | November 19, 2012 at 11:55 am | 2,320 views | 9 Comments

People around the country and here in Arlington have already begun heading to their Thanksgiving destinations. In the D.C. metro area, the number of travelers is expected to be slightly higher than last year.

More than 1 million local residents are anticipated to travel 50 miles or more for the holiday, according to AAA. That’s a 1.3 percent increase over last year.

“The consistently solid travel numbers since the 2008 drop, despite high gas prices and a struggling economy, is impressive and reassuring,” said Martha Mitchell Meade, Manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “The ‘recovery’ rate of the number of holiday travelers has out-paced the economic recovery and, as Thanksgiving is primarily a family holiday, speaks to the importance of family in good times and bad.”

Meade noted that travelers should plan accordingly if driving to areas such as New York or New Jersey, which have been hurting for gasoline due to Superstorm Sandy. She spoke with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office and was informed that gas rationing was supposed to end yesterday (Sunday), but might need to be re-evaluated today.

“If gas rationing is going on, if there’s not enough gas for the people who live there, certainly bringing in other people who need gas will only make the situation worse,” Meade said.

AAA predicts air travel in the metro area will decrease by a little more than 1 percent, even though it shows air fare is about 11 percent lower than last year.

According to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, the Thanksgiving travel rush began on Friday (November 16) and will continue through Monday, November 26. The busiest days are anticipated to be tomorrow (Tuesday) and Wednesday, in addition to the Sunday and Monday after Thanksgiving.

Peak travel times are typically in the early morning from 5:30-8:00 a.m. and late afternoon from 3:30-5:30 p.m. There could also be a mid-day peak from 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. Travelers are advised to arrive at least two hours before a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight, especially during these peak times.

Student Ambassadors and Travelers Aid volunteers will be at Reagan National Airport to offer directions and answer traveler questions. The Student Ambassadors will be wearing distinctive yellow shirts and the Travelers Aid volunteers will be wearing blue blazers.

MWAA offers the following tips for travelers:

  • Confirm the status of your flight directly with your airline before coming to the airport. Weather here or in other parts of the country can affect airline schedules across the route network.
  • Print out your boarding pass in advance. Some airlines also offer electronic boarding passes.
  • Bring government issued photo ID to the airport for all adult passengers.
  • Expect full flights and full luggage bins on board.
  • Pack wisely – no prohibited items in carry-on luggage; and no valuable items in checked luggage. Label your luggage so your name is plainly visible.
  • Reagan National customers can check parking availability on the airport’s website or at 703-417-PARK. Economy tends to fill during holiday periods.
  • For travelers not familiar with the airport, a printable one-page information sheets is available in the “Travel Tips” section at the airport website. Travelers can also follow MWAA on Twitter for updated information.
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  • Not Me

    Welp couldn’t have told by the absolute gridlock getting in on 395N this morning…

    My wife and I were semi excited about the prospects of a light commute (silly, I know) and it was actually one of the worst commutes into DC that I can recall this year.

    We waited through 2 red light cycles just to turn onto the Pike and it went downhill from there.

    Fingers crossed for tomorrow…

  • Long Drive

    We drove from Arlington to Philly at about 8pm on a Tuesday last year, and got killed in traffic — 90 mins just to leave the District.

    If anybody has left late at night on Wed. or very early on Thurs., I’d be curious to know which times are best. thanks

    • http://URL My Drive

      I go to NJ, just outside of Philly. I’ve had the best luck leaving Thursday morning (Around 8 am) and coming back Saturday – leaving sometime mid-morning. There’s always volume, but it’s been ok for me.

  • C

    Depends on where you are going- i used to drive to MA from NOVA and found leaving by 5:00 AM worked the best regardless of holiday season. I have never had luck going anywhere- north or south- when leaving at night.

  • http://URL DepotEmAll

    I fly out of Leesburg, so my drive is on the Dulles Toll Road and Greenway. Never had any problems at Thanksgiving or any other time.

  • Gridlock

    Is that picture from this morning?

    • Captain_Obvious

      No, its everyday around here.

    • http://www.arlnow.com ARLnow.com

      No, it’s a file photo.

  • Right of Center

    I’ll just ride 5 loops on the trolley and can say I travelled more than 50 miles to my Thanksgiving destination!

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