how to travel for thanksgiving this year

(CNN) — With the 2020 vacations in the bag, plenty more travelers are expected to be on the go this year. In the United States, the American Automobile Association (AAA) predicts that Thanksgiving travel will rebound to levels close to pre-pandemic levels, with 53.4 million Americans expected to travel for the holidays, an increase 13% over last year.

This brings total travel volume to just 5% below the 2019 figure. And air travel is expected to rise 80% from last year, bringing it down to just 9% from 2019. Around 4.2 million travelers are expected to travel this year.

With recent operational meltdowns at Southwest and American Airlines, in addition to staffing issues and increased international travel, many air travelers fear things are going to get messy.

“Even before the pandemic, reports of long delays, cancellations and stranded passengers were something of a vacation tradition,” said Willis Orlando, senior product operations specialist at the airline ticket deals site. Scott’s Cheap Flights.

“People are understandably more nervous than ever this year,” Orlando said, with recent massive flight cancellations giving travelers pause. But he said airlines were making adjustments to avoid potential problems.

“While it’s certainly not out of the question, we’d be surprised to see the kind of major failures among US budget airlines that we’ve seen in the past few months before the holidays,” Orlando said.

The usual weather-related delays are more likely, he said.

But while air travel is on the rise, the vast majority of travelers will continue to travel by car, according to AAA, with 90% (48.3 million) expected to drive.

With so many vaccinated, AAA spokesman Andrew Gross expects the roads to look like a typical Thanksgiving: “Packed with people.”

“If you’re leaving on the Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving and you live near a major metropolitan area, you’re going to get stuck in traffic again,” Gross told CNN’s Pete Muntean.

And traffic is just the beginning. There are also health issues to manage and respect safety once there. With the holiday season fast approaching, here are some expert tips for minimizing hassle and maximizing safety while traveling during a pandemic:

Preparing for Thanksgiving Day Flights

The airports will be full.

“We’re close to pre-pandemic numbers,” AAA’s Gross said. “So we’re telling people, ‘Listen, you’re going to find queues at the airport. It’s just unavoidable. So get there at least two hours early. And if it’s a international flight, three hours in advance.'”

Vacationers will pass through Los Angeles International Airport in November 2020. Air travel is expected to increase by 80% during Thanksgiving this year. David McNew/Getty Images

The possibility of major interruptions should be considered and the AAA recommends travel insurance.

“Get that travel insurance and that airline insurance if you can. That little box that you often skip, click that this year because we don’t know what airline and Transportation Security Administration staffing will be,” Gross said. . .

Insurance cover can usually be purchased up to the day before a traveler departs, according to travel insurance comparison site Squaremouth.

Other flying tips:

– Fly early in the day to avoid the cascading effect of delays and cancellations. Bad weather is also more likely to affect subsequent flights.

– Try the airline’s website or app to rebook if your flight is cancelled. It’s usually faster, according to Kathleen Bangs, a former airline pilot and FlightAware spokeswoman.

– Book nonstop flights offered multiple times a day on major airlines to increase your chances of rebooking the same itinerary in a timely manner, Orlando said.

– To be really safe, book an emergency flight.

“Personally, I often buy two tickets, and the second ticket is held in reserve,” Bangs of FlightAware said.

She makes sure the second flight is refundable or reusable, and that it’s at least two hours later than the first so she has time to catch it if the other is seriously delayed or canceled.

take the road

Gasoline prices are averaging about $3.42 a gallon this year, Gross noted, which is up about $1.30 from last year and about 80 cents compared to 2019.

“But as we’ve always found, regardless of gas prices, people are always going to take that trip. They’re just going to budget along the way.”

AAA Driving Tips:

– Make sure your vehicle is ready for the Thanksgiving trip. AAA suggests checking key components like the battery, fuel system, tires, brakes and fluid levels

– Holiday weekend mornings are usually the best times to drive. The best time on Wednesday is after 9 p.m., according to transportation analytics firm INRIX. The worst time on Wednesday is between noon and 8 p.m.

Covid-19 health considerations for holiday travel in 2021

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) always recommends delaying travel until you are fully immunized.

For those traveling with unvaccinated people, the agency suggests safer options like short-stop road trips and direct flights.

Traveling with unvaccinated children will be a consideration for many families.

“That risk is not so much the trip itself, but what you do at the destination,” said Dr. Leana Wen, CNN medical analyst, emergency physician and professor of health policy and management at the Institute. Milken School of Public Health. George Washington University Institute.

Trips that involve visiting indoor attractions and crowded restaurants are more at risk.

“The trip itself can be very safe, especially if young children can wear a mask. If they can’t wear a mask, that’s a major obstacle,” said Wen, who is also the author of a new book, “Lifelines: A Physician’s Journey in the Fight for Public Health.”

If she was traveling alone with her 4-year-old son, who is used to wearing a mask in kindergarten, Wen said she would feel very comfortable taking him on a short flight. However, she would not travel by plane or train with her daughter, who is one and a half, because she cannot wear a mask all the time.

People should wear a high-quality mask (N95, KN95 or KF94) whenever they are in crowded indoor settings with people of unknown vaccination status, he said.

Get to you safely when you arrive at your destination

The vaccination status of everyone else is critical when you have unvaccinated children.

“If you plan to see family members who are all vaccinated and be outdoors or near other people known to be vaccinated, the risk is much lower than if you plan to be in indoor spaces crowded with people whose vaccination status is unknown, Wen mentioned.

If immunocompromised family members or unvaccinated children, or both, are attending the gathering, Wen suggests everyone self-quarantines for at least three days before meeting and take a rapid test just before. to see each other.

“It would reduce the risk for everyone,” he said. And those who are eligible for booster shots should get them, Wen advised.

Beyond pandemic health precautions, patience will be required for holiday travel. Flight delays, cancellations and understaffed restaurants are to be expected right now, said travel consultant Dave Hershberger, president of Prestige Travel Leaders, in Cincinnati.

“If you’re a very impatient person, stay home now because you’re really going to have to let go.”

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