Millions take flight, drive and ride trains ahead of Thanksgiving travel weekend

Wednesday is one of the busiest travel days you'll see all week.
Published: Nov. 23, 2022 at 8:40 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Wednesday is expected to be one of the busiest travel days on record across the country, according to AAA, and it’s no different here in central Virginia as millions of people traveled ahead of the holiday weekend.

The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as the five-day period from Wednesday, Nov. 23, to Sunday, Nov. 27.

AAA says about 4.5 million people are expected to take flights to travel for Thanksgiving.

AAA predicts 54.6 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home this Thanksgiving. That’s a 1.5% increase over 2021 and 98% of pre-pandemic volumes.

“Our holiday forecast this year at AAA has been higher than 2021 numbers, but just under what we were looking at in 2019,” AAA spokesperson Morgan Dean said.

According to Flightaware, there were only about 13 delays at Richmond International compared to more than 21 hundred flight delays and over 40 cancellations around the country. Though RIC was busier than usual, travelers like Tom Liddil of Little Rock, Arkansas, said he didn’t hit any significant snags on his flight to the River City.

“You’ve got to grin and bear a little bit, you know you’re traveling through the holidays, and it’s going to be congested,” Dean said.

Other passengers like Austin Timmons said his time navigating the Richmond airport was a night and day contrast to his early Wednesday morning experience at the Atlanta Airport.

“The Atlanta airport was the worst experience ever,” Timmons said. “Everybody is jumbled up, and it’s a lot of waiting.”

Timmons said he showed up two hours early and still almost missed his flight, but he says the opportunity to see his family after years apart due to the pandemic is worth the hassle of travel.

“Really, I’m just looking forward to meeting family,” Timmons said. “I just haven’t seen them in over two years, so this is pretty good.”

In lieu of airports, travel AAA expects about 1.4 million people across the country to rely on other modes of transportation like buses, cruise ships and trains.

Though it made for a longer trip, Jane Winthrop says she took an Amtrak from New York City to visit her family in Richmond so she wouldn’t have to worry about unexpected delays on flights or a lot of traffic driving down.

“It’s a lot less chaotic than getting to the airport. I was really nervous about having a delay for my flight, so I chose the Amtrak,” Winthrop said. “It’s a smooth ride, I can just look out the window for six hours, and I’m here.”

“This year’s been much more of an open book, we saw the cruise industry come back, and we saw a lot of countries that have been closed for two years reopen their borders and invite tourists back in,” Dead said. “People got more comfortable with flying on airplanes again. A lot of things changed that have encouraged people to get back to doing what they were doing pre-pandemic.”

The vast majority of people, roughly 50 million or so, will drive to their Thanksgiving destinations.

Dean says if you drive, try doing so in the morning to beat the traffic.

Plan on leaving during those nonpeak hours. If you can travel before 8 a.m. or 8 p.m., you should be able to avoid the worst of the backups.