As fears of a pandemic appear to have largely eased, vacation travel is returning with a roar, with this Thanksgiving holiday set to be one of the busiest ever. That means crowded streets and long security lines at airports, with potentially no on-site parking.
But the more than 2 million Floridians who travel by car will take a break as gasoline prices have fallen across the country over the past week.
“Florida drivers can have something special to be grateful for this Thanksgiving holiday,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman for AAA-The Auto Club Group.
Jenkins said pump prices are likely to fall further by as much as 30 cents a gallon during the holiday season due to increased refinery production.
Airports: Expect long waits at security, limited on-site parking
More than 2 million people are expected to travel through South Florida’s three major airports, according to officials.
Palm Beach International Airport expects about 100,000 departing passengers through Sunday, about the same as or slightly more than last year.
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“During the holiday week, passengers should expect slightly longer wait times at security checkpoints, particularly on early morning flights, and reduced parking availability in certain parking areas due to increased activity, so we strongly encourage passengers to plan ahead and arrive early said Nicole Hughes, manager of marketing and public information at PBIA.
The typical recommendation for arriving at the airport before a flight is two hours for a domestic flight and three hours for an international flight.
But for busy travel times you may need more time. Miami International Airport recommends arriving at least three hours in advance for domestic flights and 3.5 hours for international flights. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport is forecasting 690,000 travelers by early next week.
Miami International plans to welcome approximately 150,000 travelers per day for the 12 days ending November 29, which translates to 1.8 million travelers. That’s about 14% up from last year for Fort Lauderdale, but a record for Miami Airport.
The parking garages at Fort Lauderdale and Miami airports are expected to fill up quickly. Consider going with family or friends, or using a ride-sharing service or public transportation. If you still want to park locally, be sure to check the airport’s social media pages for updates.
“As economic anxiety mounts, travel remains strong and it looks like people are not ready to give up travel and experiences yet again,” said Jorge Pesquera, President and CEO of Discover The Palm Beaches.
The number of people who visited the county between July and September, 2.1 million, surpassed pre-pandemic levels, the county’s tourism marketing arm said. Hotel occupancy should be around 2019 levels at 73%, Pesquera said, with 1,300 rooms added to inventory over the past three years.
Despite economic worries, the holidays are coming as pandemic travel spurts
In the 12 months to September, approximately 2.3 million more passengers traveled through PBIA compared to the same period in 2021.
Those numbers could bode well for the rest of the year, as well as the rest of the Palm Beach season.
“With that kind of momentum, we anticipate a very busy tourism season in the Palm Beaches this winter,” Pesquera said, noting that tourism could have a $3.8 billion economic impact on the region between October and March , if their numbers are correct.
If you head out for Thanksgiving, you won’t be alone. According to the American Automobile Association, 91% of Florida’s estimated 2.9 million residents will travel by car.
According to AAA, the best times to drive are early morning or late evening on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday. On Saturday there is a little more leeway, the better times to drive are before 2pm or after 8pm
Expecting to help 411,000 stranded drivers, the association is also suggesting that drivers take a look at their cars’ tyres, oil and other potential sources of trouble before hitting the road.
Florida drivers are paying an average of about 9 cents more for a gallon of regular gasoline than they did last Thanksgiving, but prices are expected to fall further over the weekend, AAA said.
Hannah Morse covers consumer issues for The Palm Beach Post. Send a message to email@example.com, call 561-820-4833 or follow her on Twitter @mannahhorse.