The Thanksgiving travel forecast is beyond 2019-level nightmarish

Before you sit down for your Thanksgiving feast this year, you might need anxiety meds as an appetizer.

The 2023 holiday travel season is expected to be the “busiest ever” according to the Transportation Safety Administration, with next Tuesday and Wednesday and the Sunday after Thanksgiving the most crowded days at the airport.

The TSA says it expects to screen 2.6 million passengers on Tuesday, Nov. 21; 2.7 million passengers on Wednesday, Nov. 22 and 2.9 million passengers on Sunday, Nov. 26, which will likely be the busiest travel day. (The Monday after Thanksgiving is likely to be jam packed on planes and airports as well.)

Delta Air Lines said it expects to welcome more passengers on its planes than it did in 2022 and 2019. All totaled, between Nov 17 and Nov. 28, the carrier expects to ferry between 6.2 million and 6.4 million to their destination. (Last year, it had 5.7 million bookings.)

The roads aren’t going to be any less congested. AAA says 55.4 million travelers will relocate 50 miles or more from home over the Thanksgiving holiday period—a 2.3% increase over last year and the third highest on record (with only 2005 and 2019 posting higher numbers).

The vast majority of those, nearly 89%, will be driving, thanks in part to lower gas prices than last year.

If you are driving, AAA says, take an extra day off and avoid hitting the road on Wednesday.

“The day before Thanksgiving is notoriously one of the most congested days on our roadways. Travelers should be prepared for long delays, especially in and around major metros,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights, in a statement. “Knowing when and where congestion will build can help minimize holiday traffic frustrations. We advise drivers to use traffic apps, local DOT notifications, and 511 services for real-time updates.”

TSA officials, meanwhile, said they’re braced for the influx of flyers, but urged people to arrive early. And, please, don’t try to bring gravy onto your flight.

“We expect this holiday season to be our busiest ever. In 2023, we have already seen seven of the top 10 busiest travel days in TSA’s history,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske in a statement. “We are ready for the anticipated volumes and are working closely with our airline and airport partners to make sure we are prepared for this busy holiday travel season.”

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