Nov 20, 2023 - News

A Tampa Bay guide to Thanksgiving travel

Illustration of a turkey pulling a suitcase.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Buckle up, Tampa Bay. We're heading into a busy Thanksgiving travel week.

Driving the news: Between Wednesday and Sunday, about 2.8 million Floridians are expected to drive 50 miles or more to their turkey day destinations — the most since 2005, per a report from AAA.

  • Luckily, AAA projects gas prices to remain low through the week. The state's average price at the pumps was $3.08 as of Friday, about 40 cents cheaper than last year.

Flying the news: Another roughly 210,000 Floridians are expected to fly to their destinations, the organization said. Tampa International Airport is projecting its busiest Thanksgiving travel week yet, with about 80,000 travelers per day expected to pass through the airport this week.

  • The two busiest days, according to the airport, will be the Wednesday before and Sunday after Thanksgiving, with some 84,000-87,000 passengers expected each day.
  • At St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport (PIE), officials expect a total of about 36,000 departing passengers between yesterday and next Monday, about 600 more than last year.

Tips for driving: AAA recommends getting a vehicle inspection, leaving early and allowing extra time, and picking out alternative routes in case of traffic or road closures. The organization also suggests avoiding the following days and times, which are expected to have the most road congestion:

  • 2-6pm Wednesday
  • 11am-3pm Thanksgiving Day
  • 12-4pm Friday
  • 3-5pm Saturday and Sunday

Tips for flying: Check in for your flight online, follow your flight carrier for updates, arrive at the airport 2-3 hours before takeoff, and bring extra clothes and medications in case your flight gets delayed, AAA said.

Zoom in: Both PIE and TPA expect their parking areas to hit capacity. PIE recommends catching a ride to the airport. TPA recommends that passengers book parking online ahead of time.

  • Also at Tampa International, express lanes are now available for pickup and drop off on the blue side of the terminal, which serves American, Cayman, Copa, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Swift and United airlines.
  • The lanes are available for departing passengers who have already checked in and have only carry-on bags and arriving passengers who want to skip baggage claim.
  • Ride-share drivers who are picking up passengers from the blue side will also be directed to the express lanes.
  • Express lanes are not yet available for the remaining airlines on the red side. They're slated to open early 2025, per the airport.

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