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Busy Thanksgiving travel days expected in Utah

Posted at 9:32 PM, Nov 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-22 23:32:45-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Whether you’re traveling via automobile or airplane this Thanksgiving, experts are expecting an increase in travelers.

AAA predicts nearly 53 million travelers will travel this week surrounding the holiday, an increase of 13 percent from 2020. More than 48 million travelers are expected to travel on roads as opposed to roughly 4 million via airplane. However, AAA doesn't anticipate travel numbers to exceed pre-pandemic data from 2019.

“We want people to be prepared we want them to understand there will be a lot of people out on the road,” said John Gleason with the Utah Department of Transportation. “Everybody’s trying to get to where they’re going, so just plan ahead and understand it could take a couple of extra minutes to get where you’re going. Everybody will get there safely if we all just do our part.”

UDOT plans to halt major construction projects amid the Thanksgiving holiday but still anticipates delays along I-15 on Wednesday and again on Sunday.

“We really expect to see traffic ramping up probably early afternoon on Wednesday, and that’s going to continue through the evening commute. So if you want to do yourself a favor, if you can avoid traveling at the times between 3:00 and 7:00 on Wednesday, leave earlier or leave later at night — that’s going to save you some of the headaches of being stuck in traffic,” said Gleason. “We’re expecting 10-15 minute delays in Davis County, in Salt Lake County, and even down to Nephi as well.”

They’re also asking drivers to plan for congestion around shopping centers and malls on Friday.

The Salt Lake City International Airport expects Wednesday and Sunday to be the busiest travel days, with nearly 25,000 passengers anticipated on Wednesday.

The airport offered some holiday travel tips:

Before leaving for the airport, passengers are reminded to check the airline’s website or app to ensure the flight is on time and has not been delayed due to weather. In addition, passengers are encouraged to check-in electronically prior to leaving for SLC to expedite the process at the airport. SLC has three areas to check luggage, depending on the airline, as well as limited sky cap service. The SLC International app map shows the location of these luggage check points. Passengers are encouraged to arrive two hours prior to their scheduled boarding time for domestic flights and three hours for international flights. 

The Transportation Security Administration expects travel to be notably higher leading up to Thanksgiving but not to reach pre-pandemic levels. The highest travel day in TSA’s history was the Sunday after Thanksgiving of 2019, when nearly 2.9 million individuals were screened at TSA security checkpoints nationwide.