Oklahoma expects about 12% of the state’s population of nearly 4 million to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend from Wednesday to Sunday, according to AAA Oklahoma.
“In Oklahoma, we anticipate 490,357 people traveling overall, up 0.6% compared to last year. Almost 92% of them will be taking to the roads, driving to their destinations,” said AAA Oklahoma spokesperson Leslie Gamble. “A 10% increase in air travel by Oklahomans is expected, with the largest increase in percentages, 20%, in cruise, train and bus travel.”
Officials at Oklahoma City’s Will Rogers World Airport advise passengers to plan ahead and take advantage of airport amenities like restaurants and charging stations that are available for use before flights.
“Arrive early. Give yourself plenty of time, especially if you’re going to park,” said Stacey Hamm, public information and marketing manager for the airport. “Our parking is expected to be full — all of our parking lots and parking garage — this holiday season, so that’s both Thanksgiving and Christmas, so plan ahead for that.”
Hamm said those being dropped off at the airport should give themselves at least an hour and a half to get through security ahead of their flights. She also advised travelers to familiarize themselves with the Transportation Security Administration’s guidelines for items allowed to be carried on in order to avoid delays in security lines.
Airport parking for those picking loved ones up and wanting to wait inside is free for the first hour and $1 an hour after that, Hamm said. Friends and family can wait for loved ones in the baggage claim area, the airports east or west “meeter-greeter” lobbies, determined by the airline, or other areas.
“We also have our mezzanine area that many people probably aren’t too familiar with, that you can go up and wait for your passengers and you can actually watch planes fly in and land,” Hamm said.
“You don’t have to have a boarding pass or anything to get up there. You’ll find the stairs to get up to the mezzanine through the security checkpoint on the ticket-counter level.”
Driving and flying remain the most popular forms of travel nationally, as nearly 49 million people will drive to their Thanksgiving destinations, and 4.5 million will fly. However, other modes of transportation — like buses, trains and cruises — are up 23%. More than 1.4 million travelers will go by bus, train or cruise ship.
Nationally, nearly 55 million Americans are planning some form of travel during the long weekend, according to AAA Oklahoma. That number is slightly below pre-pandemic levels and 1.5% above the holiday period in 2021.
Overall, 2022 is projected to be the third-busiest Thanksgiving since AAA started tracking holiday travel in 2000, even as holiday travel will cost more this year. Travelers can expect to pay about 17% more per gallon at the pump, and airfares have increased by around 43%, according to AAA Oklahoma.
“It’s going to be busy. It’s going to be crowded on the highways at certain times. We just suggest everyone pack their patience and anticipate travel taking more than the usual time to reach your destination safely,” Gamble said.
Will Rogers World Airport also expects Christmas to be busier than last year and the airport is preparing in advance and “looking forward to it,” according to Hamm.