Nov 23, 2021 - Things to Do

A smart guide to Thanksgiving travel in the Philadelphia region

Illustration of a turkey pulling a suitcase.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Thanksgiving travel is inching closer to pre-pandemic levels in the Philadelphia region, even as COVID-19 rates continue to increase.

By the numbers: More than 630,000 Philadelphia-area residents will be traveling over the holiday weekend, with most hitting the roads, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.

  • AAA told Axios it expects a roughly 9% increase in Philly-area residents traveling by car and an 81% jump in people flying compared to this time last year.

Yes, but: Philadelphia International Airport travel is still down 21%, compared to 2019.

  • Although, the airport expects it to be the biggest travel period so far this year, with an estimated 848,600 flyers expected to be passing through between Nov. 19 and Nov. 30.

Of note: The airport's estimate includes departing, connecting and arriving flights.

Between the lines: Philadelphia Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole warned last week that the city could be on the verge of another wave of coronavirus infections.

What they're saying: "People are ready to travel again, and for some, it's been two years. Travelers should expect — and plan for — both the roadways and airports to be as busy as ever," AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesperson Jana Tidwell said.

  • Philadelphia International Airport spokesperson Heather Redfern warned, "Before you come to the airport this year, please plan ahead."

We compiled some tips for traveling this holiday season.

For flying:

  • Arrive at the airport three hours before your scheduled flight.
  • The airport's economy parking is closed and garage parking is at capacity, so your best bet is to grab a rideshare or get a friend to drop you off. If you can’t make it happen, there are nine off-site parking lots, but you must make a reservation.
  • Masks are required in the airport through Jan. 18. Gaiter masks or masks with valves don't count.

For driving:

  • Travel during off-peak times. AAA predicts Thanksgiving morning to be the calmest travel day. Wednesday and Sunday are expected to be the heaviest travel days.
  • Be prepared for the highest gas prices in eight years.

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