Weather, record-high traffic will snarl Thanksgiving travel

Thanksgiving travel by highways and skyways is expected to break or nearly break records this year. Adding to the seasonal chaos are several storm systems that could burden travelers across the country.

More than 26.8 million air passengers and crew members will travel through airports nationwide from Nov. 22 to Dec. 2, marking a 4% increase over last year and a new high, the Transportation Security Administration said.

“We expect record-breaking travel volume this 2019 holiday season, following our busiest summer ever,” said TSA Acting Deputy Administrator Patricia Cogswell in a press release.

On the roads, nearly 50 million Americans will drive to their Thanksgiving destinations this holiday, marking it the highest traffic volume since 2005 and 2.8% higher than last year, AAA reported.

“Although travel times will peak on Wednesday afternoon nationally, travelers should expect much heavier than normal congestion throughout the week,” said Trevor Reed, transportation analyst at INRIX in AAA’s press release.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Officers search handbags which were packed in a suitcase at a checkpoint at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Va. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Weather complications

Mother Nature’s unpredictability will add a major wrinkle for Thanksgiving travelers who will have to contend with swathes of rain and snow, according to the National Weather Service’s Monday forecast

On Wednesday, rain showers may dampen travel in the East, Southwest and California. High winds may disrupt air travel in the Great Lakes and Northeast, while snow will make roads a but more slick from  Sierra Nevada of California to the interior West, according to the NWS.

Rain and snow in California, the Rockies and Plains could make traveling difficult on Thanksgiving day. Winds in the Northeast may linger, potentially causing airport delays.

Rain and snow could complicate Thanksgiving travel plans across the country. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

What air travelers need to know

The best way to deal with the expected congestion and weather delays is to prepare. Proactive air travelers can consult the FAA’s website and MyTSA app for real-time data on flight delays and estimated wait times at security checkpoint lines.

The TSA is also offering overtime to screeners to keep traffic moving through security checkpoints during the holiday onslaught. The agency still encourages passengers to arrive at the airport at least two hours before domestic flights and three hours before international flights.

Check in to your flight the night before and pack only a carry-on, if possible. Sail through security lines by wearing slip-on shoes, keeping your laptop and other devices accessible, properly storing liquids and moving all items from your pockets to your carry-on before getting in line.

The TSA recommends that air travelers get to the airport two hours before domestic flights and three hours before international ones. (Photo: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)

What motorists need to know

The worst travel day on the roads is expected to be Nov. 27, the day before Thanksgiving. So, travelers should expect major delays as much as four times longer than normal in major metro areas. 

BOSTON: Thanksgiving traffic is expected to be worst in and around major metros like Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York, Boston and Houston. (Photo: David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Drivers making their way in and around Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York, Boston and Houston should prepare for the nation’s heaviest congestion.

Motorists will pay about the same as last year at the pump during the Thanksgiving holiday. As of Monday, the national average is $2.59 per gallon for regular unleaded, compared with $2.57 a year ago.

AAA expects more than 368,000 motorists to call for roadside assistance this Thanksgiving holiday. Before hitting the road, the nonprofit recommends motorists take their vehicles in for any needed maintenance. 

Stephanie is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @SJAsymkos.

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