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This Thanksgiving, Full Planes to Go With Full Plates

This Thanksgiving, Full Planes to Go With Full Plates

With about 30 million travelers expected to jam U.S. airports this year and storms in the forecast, you may want to take an extra helping of patience, too.

A government shutdown won’t be disrupting travel plans this Thanksgiving after Congress agreed on Wednesday to a funding package that lasts through early next year. But clouds and crowds might make your trip a slog anyway.

The Transportation Security Administration expects about 30 million passengers to fly between this Friday and the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, an 11.5 percent increase over the same period last year.

The weather won’t make the Thanksgiving crush any easier. Weekend storms in New England and low clouds and rain on the California coast could cause some delays. And Monday through Wednesday morning, a strong cold front will move eastward, slowing operations at airline hubs like Houston and Chicago before soaking the East Coast, said Paul Pastelok, a senior meteorologist at AccuWeather.

If you haven’t booked your trip already, average airfare prices are slightly lower than they were in 2019, said Melanie Fish, head of public relations at Expedia Brands, and you can really save time and money if you fly on Thanksgiving Day.

“According to Expedia data, flying on Thanksgiving Day is 11 percent cheaper than average for the week of Thanksgiving, but here’s the real kicker — it’s almost half as busy compared to the day before Thanksgiving,” Ms. Fish said.

The four major New York City-area airports run by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey are expecting 3.1 million passengers from this Monday through the Monday after Thanksgiving, up slightly from three million over the same period last year, said Seth Stein, spokesman for the Port Authority.

Those planning to crowd the streets of Manhattan — instead of the airports — for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade can expect the giant balloons to be flying high: The forecast calls for very little wind, Mr. Pastelok said, and the day will be sunny and chilly, with temperatures topping out in the mid-40s.

AAA predicts that 49.1 million Americans will drive to their destinations for Thanksgiving, an increase of 1.7 percent compared with 2022, said Robert Sinclair Jr., a senior manager at AAA. That means jammed highways, with the busiest days forecast to be this Wednesday and the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

Drivers may face longer travel times than usual on certain routes, AAA reported. Along Interstate 5 between Los Angeles and Bakersfield, Calif., expect to spend 88 percent more travel time than usual on Wednesday afternoon. Drivers on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, north of the nation’s capital, are projected to spend 71 percent more time on the road, starting early Wednesday afternoon.

Filling up the tank will cost those drivers less. Average gas prices nationwide are projected to drop to $3.25 per gallon next week, said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. “Average gas prices have plummeted in all 50 states in the weeks ahead of Thanksgiving, with $2.99 prices spreading like wildfire just in time for the start of the holiday season,” he said in a news release.

Americans are also taking to the rails at higher numbers this year, with Amtrak expecting 750,000 customers from this Sunday until the Sunday after Thanksgiving, said Jason Abrams, senior public relations manager at Amtrak, a jump of about 2 percent.

Mr. Sinclair of AAA had a bit of advice for all the Thanksgiving road warriors: Beat the Sunday traffic by driving on Saturday. “For those who listen to Ben Franklin,” Mr. Sinclair said, “Fish and company go bad after three days.”

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