South Jersey residents and visitors felt the calm before the storm Tuesday as they reached their destinations before what is expected to be a busy holiday travel week.
National travel organizations and services predict this will be one of the most traveled Thanksgivings in recent years, with an estimated 1.4 million New Jersey residents on the roads and in the air.
AAA says these people will travel 50 miles or more during the holiday, which means densely populated New Jersey should expect traffic, lines and crowds at airports, travel terminals and on the roads.
“A strong economy and labor market are generating rising incomes, driving up the confidence in consumers who are more willing to spend on travel this year,” Tracy Noble, spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said in a statement.
There was little hassle for people flying into Atlantic City International Airport on Tuesday. Alf and Alicia Bashian, of Naples, Florida, come up north to spend Thanksgiving with their son and fiancee in Glassboro. The couple left out of Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers, Florida, that morning.
“Smooth, it was really smooth,” Alf said. “A little bit of, you know, at the security gate because they had cranked it up for the holidays, but it was relatively smooth and pretty easy.”
“We find that it’s a very easy commute, and it’s a smaller airport, so there’s less walking than when you come through the Philadelphia airport,” Alicia added.
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Projections show a 5.2 percent increase in the number of people in New Jersey traveling for Thanksgiving over last year, with nearly 90 percent driving to their destinations and almost 9 percent flying.
Another 30,000 New Jerseyans are expected to travel by train, bus, watercraft or a combination, according to a recent AAA report.
Analysts say there are ways to plan ahead for your best chance at quick and cheap travel.
The best days to travel will be on Thanksgiving Day, Friday and Saturday. Drivers should expect the roads to be the busiest Sunday as many people make their way back home.
Drivers will also see one of the highest Thanksgiving weekend gas prices in recent years at an average of $2.68 per gallon, according to AAA. It was more on the holiday in 2014 when it hit $2.71.
Airports will also have their fair share of travelers coming and going this week. Airlines for America, an industry trade organization for U.S. airlines, projected a record 30.6 million passengers will fly during the 12-day Thanksgiving period, up from last year.
The busiest days to fly will be Wednesday and Sunday, with the lightest day of travel Thanksgiving Day.
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Tommy Verrochi, 25, of Ocean Township, returned to New Jersey in time for the holiday after going down to watch the NASCAR Cup Series in Homestead, Florida, where Stafford Township native Martin Truex Jr. came in second behind Joey Logano.
“The travel was pretty fluid. There weren’t any really long lines,” he said. “From what I noticed, it was actually busier on Friday than it is two days before Thanksgiving.”
As for pricing, plane tickets are going to cost more for people flying the day before Thanksgiving. The average round-trip ticket price for flying Wednesday is about $507, says AAA experts.
Prices are also steeper Saturday, Sunday and Monday, according to CheapAir.com. Sunday flights are the priciest. Travelers can save nearly $100 per ticket by flying only a day later.
Thanksgiving Day tends to be a cheaper day to fly. Airlines and travel companies offer discounts and promotions for people that day, when the average round-trip ticket costs $446 with light crowds at the airport, AAA says.
And if you don’t get it right this week, the December holidays are right around the corner.