Thanksgiving travel: what to expect on the roads, airport

Posted at 4:11 PM, Nov 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-22 18:11:43-05

DENVER – It’s a safe assumption that many will encounter congested highways and clogged airports this Thanksgiving holiday. In fact, AAA forecasts this year will be the busiest Thanksgiving period on U.S. roads and skies since 2007.

Colorado travelers should see pretty dry conditions. Wednesday will be dry and mild with highs in the low to mid 50s for the eastern plains and 40s in the mountains.

A minor storm will move across the mountains on Thanksgiving with a few inches of snow. Black Friday will be bright and sunny and Saturday will stay mild and dry.

MORE | CDOT Travel Center

Denver drivers should avoid the roads on the day before Thanksgiving, if they can. According to Google Maps data, traffic is very slow between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. on the Wednesday afternoon ahead of Thanksgiving Day; 3 p.m. specifically is the worst time for congestion. Drivers are better to leave before noon or after 5 p.m.

Holiday travel tips

  • Ensure your vehicle is properly maintained. If maintenance is not up to date, have your car and tires inspected before you take a long drive.
  • Map your route in advance and be prepared for busy roads during the most popular times of the year. If possible, consider leaving earlier or later to avoid heavy traffic.
  • Keep anything of value in the trunk or covered storage area.
  • If you’re traveling with children, remind them not to talk to strangers. Go with them on bathroom breaks and give them whistles to be used only if the family gets separated.
  • Have roadside assistance contact information on hand, in case an incident occurs on the road.
  • In case of an emergency, keep a cell phone and charger with you at all times. AAA and many other companies offer smartphone applications that enable motorists to request help without making a phone call.

If you are heading to Denver International Airport, expect long lines. The airport is expecting 1.1 million travelers to pass through the airport this Thanksgiving week with most traveling Tuesday, Wednesday and next Sunday.

MORE | Denver International Airport

DIA says it could break a record next Sunday, Nov. 27, as the all-time busiest travel day ever at the airport.

Air travel tips

Planes are likely to be packed over the holiday, and bad weather or airline computer malfunctions can slow things to a crawl. If the unexpected happens, be ready to react quickly.

  • Arrive early. At some airports, including Dallas-Fort Worth International and Dallas Love Field, garages and other facilities are under construction, making matters worse.
  • Pack smart. Don't put anything you really need - medicine, passport, other important papers - in your rollaboard bag; or remember to remove it if the airline orders you to gate-check your bag, which happens when flights are full and bins are overstuffed.
  • Customer assistance. If your flight is canceled, get in line to talk to an airline customer rep but call the airline too. You might have better luck reaching an overseas number - look up the numbers before your trip.

Associated Press contributed to this story


Sign up for Denver7 email alerts to stay informed about breaking news and daily headlines.

Or, keep up-to-date by following Denver7 on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.