Take the stress out of Thanksgiving travel
By Emilee Hibshman
SALISBURY — Thanksgiving is supposed to be a day of fun, family, giving thanks and eating until you cannot eat any more.
If your holiday involves travel, though, first you have to get to your destination safely with the least hassle possible.
AAA Carolinas predicts that 2.1 million Carolinians will journey 50 miles or more from home this Wednesday through Sunday — a 3.3 percent increase over 2016.
About 90 percent of those travelers will get to their destinations by car, according to AAA. If traffic goes as usual, the busiest periods will be the day before Thanksgiving and the Sunday following the holiday.
Historically, the lightest highway traffic is on Thanksgiving morning.
There is a way to have a relaxing weekend. Here is what you need to know for taking your well-deserved vacation, depending on your mode of travel:
• If you are traveling by plane: The Charlotte Douglas International Airport is expecting very high passenger numbers this season. The busiest air travel days are generally the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and the Sunday and Monday following Thanksgiving. To have a more enjoyable experience, plan to arrive at the airport early, prepared, and with plenty of patience.
If you are taking a long weekend, be sure to visit parking.charlotteairport.com to view CLT’s long-term parking map or call 704-359-5555 for current parking conditions.
If you are picking up your in-laws, cousins, or siblings from out of town, the airport suggests using the hourly deck for picking them up and dropping them off. It is very close to the terminal and the first hour is free.
Flyers should note that inside the airport, terminal renovations are under way on Concourses A, B and C.
Airport officials say employees will be working hard to make travelers’ experience as pleasant as it can be. They are adding more personnel to airport shuttle bus and parking operations, increasing airport staff in ticketing and stationing additional traffic officers on the upper and lower levels of ticketing and baggage claim.
• If you are traveling by car: To avoid the awful traffic the holidays produce, Google has compiled travel statistics to find the best time to hit the road. The research shows leaving early on Thanksgiving Day is the best way to go. Google’s recommendations start at 6 a.m. and end at 8 p.m. to avoid late-night driving. According to the findings, Wednesday afternoon is the worst time to drive.
Google found that in North Carolina, Charlotte area drivers should avoid being on the road in the afternoon. Highways are likely to be clogged on Wednesday and Saturday at 4 p.m. To make it to Thanksgiving dinner without overwhelming road rage, leave early on Thursday morning and head home on Saturday at 6 p.m.
Raleigh’s traffic is expected to be lightest on Thanksgiving and Saturday mornings at 6 a.m. Traffic is likely to be at its heaviest Wednesday at 4 p.m. and Saturday at 3 p.m.
• If you are traveling by train: You may be thinking, “Who travels by train anymore?” but traveling by train can be a cheaper option to help you reach your destination. With no traffic jams and no parking fees, trains are a very great and environmentally conscious way to travel.
Amtrak has added extra trains for more seating on their Northeast and Midwest routes. They are also making travel more comfortable with amenities like no middle seats, up to two personal items and two bags for free, plenty of leg room, no airplane mode, etc.
For more information or to plan your trip, go to www.amtrak.com. There are deals on their homepage to make travel cheap and easy for everyone.
If you keep your eye on the prize (Thanksgiving dinner) and prepare in advance, you can have a stress-free and very happy holiday.
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