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Our View: Tips aplenty for the tons of Turkey Day travelers

From the editorial: "This Thanksgiving (is expected to be) the busiest on our highways and in the air since the pandemic began in 2020 and the third-busiest since AAA started tracking Turkey Day travel back in 2000."

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Dave Granlund / Cagle Cartoons
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Americans are expected to gobble up traveling for Thanksgiving this year more like we used to, more like we did before COVID-19 and high gas prices and rising inflation.

AAA predicts 54.6 million Americans — about 16% of us — will travel 50 miles or more to celebrate on Thursday, making this Thanksgiving the busiest on our highways and in the air since the pandemic began in 2020 and the third-busiest since AAA started tracking Turkey Day travel back in 2000.

Most — 89%, according to AAA — will travel by car. There’ll be an estimated 203,000 more drivers this Thanksgiving compared to 2021.

In Minnesota, they’ll only be driving up to 90 miles, though, according to a poll by a Florida-based car dealership.

“Anything farther than that distance, then they will opt for a more low-key celebration in their own homes,” Gunther VW Coconut Creek said in a statement announcing its poll. “Half admit that they would prefer to stay home this Thanksgiving to use the saved gas money on Black Friday deals.”

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Gas prices are expected to be record high this Thanksgiving in Minnesota, where the average price per gallon last week was $3.51, well ahead of the Thanksgiving Day record set in 2012 of $3.29, according to AAA.

However, “higher gas prices don’t seem to be enough to (completely) stop people from traveling to be with family and friends,” AAA spokeswoman Meredith Mitts said in a statement. “We’ve found that when gas prices are high, travelers look to offset the added cost by spending less on a hotel, shopping or dining out.”

Air travel is expected to be up 8% this year compared to 2021 and back to about pre-pandemic levels, according to AAA. An estimated 4.5 million Americans will fly to their Thanksgiving destinations this week, an increase of more than 330,000 air passengers and nearly 99% of the 2019 pre-pandemic volume.

That strong-again demand for flights, delays and even cancellations that aren’t uncommon this time of year due to winter weather, and ongoing airline staffing challenges have 71% of air travelers understandably concerned their trips this week will be less than smooth.

“Travel is still roaring back from the pandemic,” AAA Vice President of Travel Debbie Haas said. “While gas prices and other inflationary pressures weigh on budgets, travel remains a top priority for Americans, particularly during the holidays. Travel spending is at the highest level since the pandemic began, which is a driving force behind our projections this year. AAA expects busy roads and long lines at the airport, so leave early and be flexible with your travel plans.”

That’s some good advice, no matter how you’re planning to reach your destination. Since it’s perhaps been a couple of years since you’ve traveled for Thanksgiving, here are some more tips and advice, both from AAA and FEMA.

Double check travel restrictions at your destination. Get your flu shot and COVID-19 booster before going. Wear a mask in public, and wash your hands often.

Ensure you have an emergency supply kit in your car. If going by air or train, carry a kit with you with things in it like a flashlight, batteries, and charger cord.

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Practice smart cooking: Stay in the kitchen when anything is on the stove or on a hot plate. Turn pot handles toward the back of the stove so they don’t get bumped.

If you get an early start on Christmas decorating this weekend, do so with care. Nearly half of holiday-decoration fires happen because decorations are placed too close to a heat source. Water your Christmas tree every day.

If driving, traffic should be lightest during morning and late-evening hours and on Thanksgiving Day. Be sure your vehicle is in good working order. AAA expects more than 411,000 drivers to need roadside assistance this holiday weekend, many for dead batteries, flat tires, or lockouts. Move over for tow trucks, emergency responders, or disabled vehicles you encounter on the shoulders of highways.

And if you’re flying, check in early, two to three hours ahead of your scheduled departure. Pack medications and an extra set of clothes in your carry-on bag in case your flight is delayed or canceled. Consider purchasing travel insurance to protect yourself financially from delays and cancellations. And expect to pay about 22% more than last year for flights, 17% more for hotels, but 7% less for car rentals.

Bottom line if you’re traveling for Turkey Day this year — and a lot of us are again: Do it smart, do it safely. Then go ahead, have that extra piece of pumpkin pie.

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DNT

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