Traffic is heavy on Interstate 35 looking south from the Ganzer Road overpass on Monday. More travelers are expected to be hitting the roads this week for Thanksgiving.

As many drivers are expected to be on the road this Thanksgiving — including in Denton County — as before the COVID-19 pandemic, with 3.9 million Texans predicted to travel over the holiday, an increase of 12% from last year.

AAA said with 6.4 million more people traveling across the U.S. for Thanksgiving, in addition to the recent reopening of U.S. borders to fully vaccinated international travelers, people should be prepared for crowded roads and airports.

Air travel across Texas will be up from 2020, with 230,000 people planning to travel by plane for Thanksgiving. Air travel has almost completely recovered from the hit it took during the pandemic, with it now up 80% from last year. Additionally, 50,000 Texans will be traveling by bus, train or cruise, an increase of 258%, as many of these travel options have reopened.

Angela Jaimes, a sophomore at the University of North Texas, said she plans on flying to Houston for Thanksgiving to see her family.

“I’m actually flying because every time I drive, it ends up being an eight-hour trip,” Jaimes said. “I’m flying to avoid traffic or bad weather or anything, and leaving a bit late at night so the airport isn’t too full.”

In total, 3.6 million Texans will travel by automobile, the most popular and preferred mode of travel. In collaboration with AAA, INRIX, a private company that gives location-based analytics, predicts drivers will experience the worst congestion going into the holiday weekend due to commuters leaving work early and holiday travelers mixing in with each other.

“I am going home for Thanksgiving by car, and I expect there to be a lot of traffic because I’m leaving during work rush-hour traffic,” said Emily Manard, a Denton restaurant employee.

Major metro areas across the U.S. could possibly see more than double the delays compared to typical drive times, with drivers traveling in Houston, Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles and New York City expected to have more than three times the delays.

INRIX found that the best times to travel for Thanksgiving week are on Wednesday after 9 p.m. and before 11 a.m. on Thursday and Friday. For the weekend, it is best to travel before noon.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, AAA expects to respond to about 17,000 calls for help along Texas roadways. For those traveling by car, the AAA suggests getting a car inspection to check the fuel system, tires, brakes, battery and fluid levels.

AAA booking data saw that tropical destinations and big cities, both domestically and abroad, are at the top of traveler lists this Thanksgiving, including Dallas-Fort Worth.

The actual number of holiday travelers could fluctuate as Thanksgiving approaches, AAA acknowledged. If there is a reported increase of COVID-19 cases, some people may choose to stay home, while others may see the increasing number of vaccinations and make last-minute travel plans.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released its holiday gathering and travel-related recommendations, stating the best way to prevent COVID-19 risks while traveling is to get vaccinated if eligible and to delay travel until you are.

The Denton Police Department said it has no plans to increase patrols for the week of Thanksgiving, but more officers will be patrolling around busy shopping areas for Black Friday and around the holidays in general.

Police encourage drivers to watch their speed and to pay attention while behind the wheel. They also advise drivers to take it easy and not get worked up over heavy traffic.

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