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Be prepared for lots of company if you’re traveling for Thanksgiving

 Image of Eugene Airport at dusk.
Eugene Airport
The Eugene Airport is expecting a record number of travelers for Thanksgiving week this year.

AAA says more than 785,000 Oregonians are traveling over the holiday weekend this year.

The agency projects this to be the third-busiest Thanksgiving travel period ever, with more than 55.4 million Americans traveling 50 miles or more from home.

Marie Dodds with AAA Oregon said, by far, the majority are driving to their destinations, about 89% of travelers. She said the busiest times if you’re going by car are Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon and evening.

“So, if you can avoid those times, great.” Dodds said. “If you have to go in those times, expect lots of company. Know that on some routes, especially more urban routes, it can take you as long as two times, maybe even three times the length of a normal trip.”

Dodds said it’s also a good idea to make sure your vehicle is travel-ready. Dead batteries, flat tires, and lockouts are the top three reasons drivers call AAA for road-side assistance. Also, be prepared for winter driving conditions even though current forecasts are for dry weather.

“While driving is the most popular. It is also going to be a very busy holiday long weekend in the skies,” Dodds said. “In fact, air travel is up about 6 ½% compared to last year with almost 5 million of us taking to the skies this holiday weekend.”

Dodds said the busiest travel days are the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after.

Oregonians’ top destinations are Bend, Seattle, and Lincoln City. Dodds said pack your patience and give yourself plenty of time to get where you’re going, whether it's by plane, train, automobile, or bus.

AAA projects 88.7% of travelers (49.1 million Americans) will drive to their Thanksgiving destination. This is a 1.7% increase over 2022.
AAA projects 88.7% of travelers (49.1 million Americans) will drive to their Thanksgiving destination. This is a 1.7% increase over 2022.

The Eugene Airport expects a record number of Thanksgiving week travelers

The Eugene Airport is expecting a record number of travelers for the Thanksgiving holiday period.

“We’re anticipating, based on our airline calculations, about 19,727 passengers,” said Assistant Director Andrew Martz. “So, that will be the most people who’ve flown through the Eugene Airport during the week of Thanksgiving.”

Martz said Wednesday and Saturday expected to be the busiest travel days at the airport. He advised arriving early for bag check and security screening.

“The key is to get here early, especially if you’re checking a bag. The lines to check bags can get long,” said Martz. “The TSA does a great job of moving people through but when it's super busy it can take a little bit longer. So, by getting here early, you can alleviate some of that stress.”

Martz says you can check parking availability on the Eugene Airport website, since parking is limited. Taking a taxi or rideshare or catching a ride with a friend is always a good option.

The Redmond Airport expects record numbers of passengers

The Redmond Airport is also urging travelers to leave extra time to find a parking spot and clear security this week.

Airport officials are expecting a record number of passengers over the Thanksgiving holiday period.

The busiest time of day for departing flights out of Redmond is usually between 5 and 7 a.m.

The airport expects to run out of parking spaces several times over the coming week.

It updates the current number of available spaces every 30 minutes at the top of its website.

Travel numbers rebounding from pandemic slump

AAA started tracking travel in 2000. Only 2005 and 2019 had higher numbers of travelers for Thanksgiving than what’s expected this year.

AAA’s Marie Dodds said travel numbers aren’t what they were before the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said major events, such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks, can take years to rebound from.

“It took several years to rebound from that. Then, 2019 is a huge year for travel as well and we’re not quite where we were before the pandemic. But travel has certainly increased in the years since the pandemic. COVID-19 is still out there but the pandemic is over.”

Rachael McDonald is KLCC’s host for All Things Considered on weekday afternoons. She also is the editor of the KLCC Extra, the daily digital newspaper. Rachael has a BA in English from the University of Oregon. She started out in public radio as a newsroom volunteer at KLCC in 2000.