Traveling for Thanksgiving

Published 10:31 pm Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Many Suffolk families have hit the road, rails or skies for Thanksgiving, with AAA reporting 1.27 million Virginians planning to travel, a 1.6-percent drop from 2012 but still the second-highest number since 2007.

But folks surveyed at Harbour View East shopping center Tuesday afternoon mostly reported planning to stay at home.

Krysta Pearce said she was usually the one in her family doing the traveling, but “they are all going to try to come down here” for 2013.

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Staying home was business as usual for Theresa Freeman. “We normally stay home; family come to us,” Freeman said. “Local family come to our home on Thursday.”

Freeman and her immediate family always travel to Blacksburg the weekend after Thanksgiving, she said.

Brennan Ralph wasn’t going anywhere, simply saying, “I’m staying local. My family is here.”

Lisa James and her husband will hit the skies to San Antonio to spend Thanksgiving with family, she said, adding, “We’re looking forward to it.”

According to AAA’s definition, the Thanksgiving holiday travel period runs Wednesday through Dec. 1. Nationwide, it says 43.4 million Americans plan to travel, a 1.5-percent drop from 2012, and 90 percent will climb behind the wheel, down 1.6 percent on last year.

For those going by air, a massive winter storm has caused delays across the country. Travelers should check on the status of their flights before leaving home, even if the storm has not affected their home or destination.

Median travel spending will drop almost 7 percent from last year to $465, AAA predicts, adding Tuesday that after falling to a multi-year low of $3.18 per gallon on Nov. 12, gas has reached a current national average price of $3.28 after 13 straight days of increase.

In Hampton Roads, prices fell from $3.39 on Sept. 1 to $3.04 on Nov. 12, but have climbed since to $3.26, one cent lower than this time last year.

At 11 cents, Virginia joins Mississippi and North Carolina among states as having experienced the fifth-largest one-week gas price increase this week, AAA says.

AAA expects the national average will remain flat or climb a few cents by Thursday, and that many motorists will enjoy sub-$3 prices toward Christmas as gas refined from cheaper crude oil enters the market and refinery issues are fixed.

At Norfolk International Airport, Deputy Executive Director Robert Bowen said about 6,080 daily seats are planned for the month of November.

“We usually see traffic start building this afternoon (Tuesday) and this evening, and it should be fairly steady tomorrow, from past experience,” he said.

Airport staffing levels will be the same as usual, he said, adding, “We make sure that we have plenty of parking, and police and firefighters have staffing levels already set that we maintain.

“Pretty much we are able to handle the peaks as well as the normal traffic with our existing staffing level.”

The general mood at the airport around Thanksgiving is enjoyable, he said, with families reuniting and military members traveling on leave.

“We experience the same thing for the Christmas holiday period as well,” Bowen said. “Usually it’s a time of reunion and families coming together, and a lot of anticipation for people who haven’t seen family members and who are meeting them here at the airport.”

Bowen noted the website,, carries up-to-date arrival and departure information as well as answers to frequently asked questions, plus links to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website with details on what can be taken aboard aircraft and required forms.

He advised travelers to arrive 90 minutes before departure for domestic flights, adding that the airport was a little more crowded during holiday periods.

Wednesday would be the busiest day of the Thanksgiving holiday period, according to AAA, with 37 percent of travelers departing Nov. 27.