Thanksgiving travel will continue to increase nationally and locally, with New Jersey expecting to see the highest number of travelers since 2005.
About 1.4 million New Jersey residents are expected to travel 50 miles or more, which is an increase of 2.7% from 2018, said Tracy Noble, manager of public and government affairs for AAA-Mid Atlantic.
Noble said there was a decrease in travelers before 2005 due to increased gas prices, “but once the economy started to change and gas prices retreated, we saw an increase in travel.”
An estimated 1.2 million, or 89% of New Jersey travelers, are expected to travel by car this Thanksgiving, Noble said, but airports are seeing the influx as well.
The federal Transportation Security Administration expects nationwide air travel to see historic numbers, with more than 26.8 million passengers and crew members traveling through security screenings. Over the 2018 Thanksgiving holiday, TSA screened 25.6 million people, a 6% increase from 2017.
“The Thanksgiving week is busier for (Atlantic City International Airport) than other non-holiday weeks as more people are traveling to be with their family and friends,” said Mark Amorosi, spokesman for the South Jersey Transportation Authority, which owns the airport. “The peak travel days during this week are usually on Wednesday and Sunday. We advise all passengers to arrive at least two hours prior to their scheduled departure.”
Newark Liberty International Airport is also expected to see a record-breaking number of Thanksgiving travelers as the airport anticipates 10,000 more travelers a day than the average, according to a news release from the TSA.
TSA screens about 60,000 people a day at the Newark airport. Over the holiday it expects to screen about 70,000 passengers and crew members.
“TSA checkpoints at Newark will be fully staffed,” said Thomas Carter, TSA’s federal security director for New Jersey. “The officers assigned to the airports are very dedicated, and they will continue to deploy layers of security, both seen and unseen, to ensure the safety of the public.”
And even with gas prices increasing, it’s not deterring most travelers, according to GasBuddy, a tech company that provides real-time fuel prices.
Through an annual travel survey, GasBuddy found that 30% of Americans traveling by car over the holiday weekend say gas prices are impacting their travel plans. The national average gas price for Thanksgiving is projected to be at its highest since 2014 at $2.56 per gallon, a penny higher than last year.
While Thanksgiving travel extends from the Wednesday before the holiday to the Sunday after, Wednesday will be the busiest travel day, with the most people traveling from mid-afternoon Wednesday into Thursday morning, Noble said.
Winds will be the most consequential part for some travelers. High-profile vehicles near the shore will sway in 20-30 mph sustained winds expected from Wednesday afternoon into Thursday, as gusts peak around 45 mph.
The strong winds may cause delays at local airports, so check with your carrier first. While there will be a few showers Wednesday, they will not last long enough or be heavy enough to cause any issues for travelers. Drivers may even want the windows down Wednesday.
Afternoon highs will be in the 60s in most places, with some shore spots in the 50s. Thanksgiving Day will start mild in the morning but turn back to late November weather quickly on northwesterly winds. It will feel like the 30s and 20s during the afternoon.