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Planes, skis and automobiles: Here’s your Thanksgiving travel survival guide

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According to AAA, 54.6 million Americans, including nearly 312,000 Idahoans, will hit the road or head to the airport for a Turkey Day trip this year.

Earlier this year, NPR began using an interesting term: “revenge travel.” This Thanksgiving, a good many travel experts have adopted the catchphrase.

"Revenge travel" is one of the terms we've been throwing around,” said Matthew Conde, public and government affairs director at AAA Idaho/Oregon. “Where during the pandemic people were very limited in their options, now they see this as not only desirable but essential to reconnect with loved ones, to see some of the places they haven't been able to see lately and to reconnect on some of those big family traditions.”

Conde, Boise Airport Director Rebecca Hupp and National Weather Service meteorologist Dave Groenert all visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice to kick off the busiest travel week of the year, each offering some much-needed information.

“Things that you can't control are if there's a space in the garage or if there's a long line of security or if your flight is overflowing with people. Those are all outside of your span of control. But the thing that you can control is arriving early.”

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning. I'm George Prentice. Well, here we are…We have made it to Thanksgiving week and with so much anticipation, we're going to bring in the man who measures the pulse of travel this and every season. And that is Matthew Conde, public and government affairs director at AAA Idaho and Oregon. Matthew, good morning.

MATTHEW CONDE: Good morning, George. How are you?

PRENTICE: I'm well, and early happy Thanksgiving to you.

CONDE: You too. It's going to be another busy one.

PRENTICE: Well, right up front. Can you give us the big picture of how many people might be hitting the road this week across the country and across Idaho?

CONDE: Well, we're looking at 54.6 million Americans, about 312,000 Idahoans. That's a one- and one-half percent jump from a year ago. But it's also back to pre-pandemic levels. So, we're really seeing a strong rebound this year.

PRENTICE: Do you have a sense of where people might be going?

CONDE: Well, some of the most popular regional destinations are going to be Salt Lake City, Seattle, Bend, Oregon, maybe heading into Montana or Jackson Hole if you're more of a skier.

PRENTICE: Let's talk about the cost of fuel since, I'm guessing, most of us will be behind the wheel. Where are we with the cost of gas when compared to seasons past?

CONDE: Well, we're looking at around $4.24 today, which gives you some indication that things are pretty expensive out there right now. You compare that over the last seven years or so, and prices were much more in the high $3 range, even down into the low-$2 during the pandemic. So, we are definitely coming off of a lot of years in a row where it was $2-something a gallon. So, this number for something a gallon is definitely a higher number. What's interesting is during the pandemic, a lot of people increased their savings. They just didn't have anywhere to go. They're tapping into those savings now to still make all of those trips possible, even though the plane tickets and perhaps the fuel are more than they would have anticipated.

PRENTICE: Wow. That was going to be my next question…it doesn't seem to be hindering most people's plans.

CONDE: That's right. Everybody is still getting out there. People see this as an investment in quality of life when it comes to seeing family. “Revenge travel” is one of the terms we've been throwing around. Where during the pandemic people were very limited in their options, now they see this as not only desirable but essential to reconnect with loved ones, to see some of the places they haven't been able to see lately and to reconnect on some of those big family traditions.

PRENTICE: For those of us who do have options in times-of-day or days of the week, is there such a thing as peak travel this week…better or worse times to be driving?

CONDE: Well, your busiest day is going to be Tuesday in the air. Going to the airports at that point will be extremely busy. Tuesday afternoon and throughout the day. Wednesday will be your busiest times on the road, especially keeping in mind those times of day where your evening and morning commutes could meet up with those folks that are already getting a jump on travel. So, trying to avoid some of those peak congestion times is a good idea. Certainly, coming back Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 4 to 8 p.m…try to avoid those times on the road as much as possible.

PRENTICE: Matthew, with your permission, we're going to turn our attention to the skies next and check in with the airport. Matthew, to you, Happy Thanksgiving.

CONDE: You too. Thank you.

PRENTICE: So now let's bring in Rebecca Hupp. You know her as the director of the Boise Airport. Rebecca, good morning.

REBECCA HUPP: Good morning, George. Happy Thanksgiving week to you and all the listeners.

PRENTICE: Do you have a sense of how many people might be walking through the doors of the Boise Airport over the next week or so?

HUPP: We expect it will be very busy. One of the things that we've learned is that passenger travel has rebounded much quicker than we had expected, and we're seeing an increase in our passenger travel in general, about 8% over 2019. So, we are busier than ever. And so, we are fully expecting that Thanksgiving will continue the trend that we have been seeing.

PRENTICE: I want to talk about parking in a moment, but as you know, a lot of people travel maybe once or twice a year around the holiday. So, for those who haven't been at the airport in a while, there is some change going on…and maybe you can tell us what people may notice.

HUPP: There are substantial changes. In addition to seeing more passengers in general, people who are traveling will also notice some changes to our facilities. Of course, we're busier than ever, which means our parking garages are full. So, passengers should be prepared to potentially take the shuttle from the economy lot. We also have added valet service at the curb, which is a new addition.

PRENTICE: I was talking to someone the other day about this, and they were rather stunned to hear about curbside valet service. How is that going?

HUPP: It is exceeding all of our expectations. In fact, it has been more popular than we had envisioned, and we have had to find additional parking for valet. But it's one more option for people who are coming to the airport and maybe have found that they did not leave enough time to get to the economy lot. Because despite our multiple conversations on platforms like yours, George, sometimes people don't plan that extra hour to hour-and-a-half, 2 hours before their flight. And so, they find themselves at the airport. And valet, I think, has saved more than more than a couple of passengers from missing their flights. So, it's been incredibly popular. It is at the east end of the terminal. So, think not by the ticket counters, but at the rotunda. And it is $23 a day to park valet.

PRENTICE: Best advice for the holiday? I'm going to guess at the top of the list is to get there early.

HUPP: That is absolutely correct, George. It's so important that people get there early because parking could be an issue. Security screening lines could also be longer than expected or longer than what we maybe have seen in the past. And arriving early is completely within your span of control. Those are things that you can control. Things that you can't control are if there's a space in the garage or if there's a long line of security or if your flight is overflowing with people and you can't find a spot for your bag. Those are all outside of your span of control. But the thing that you can control is arriving early and passengers should plan to arrive at least an hour and a half, if not two hour or 2 hours early as they are or as they are traveling for Thanksgiving. It's all about making sure that you've allowed enough time.

PRENTICE: And packing a little patience, too.

HUPP: Patience is always helpful.

PRENTICE: So, let us pivot to the forecast now. For now, Rebecca Hupp is the director at the Boise Airport. Rebecca, Happy Thanksgiving.

HUPP: Thank you for the invitation, George It was my pleasure and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

PRENTICE: So now let's turn to David Groenert, meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Boise. Dave, good morning.

DAVE GROENERT: Good morning.

PRENTICE: Here we are Monday, a holiday week. Start us off with what we can expect today and maybe the next couple of days.

GROENERT: Right. So, for this week, we're expecting some dry weather to start. So today and into tomorrow should be dry. We're looking at a storm system that's going to be moving into the Pacific Northwest kind of late Tuesday into Wednesday, and that will be impacting weather mostly to our north and east during that time. And then for Thanksgiving and into the end of the week, it looks to be dry again.

PRENTICE: So that's interesting, especially for travelers. Can I ask what type of temperatures might accompany that precipitation?

GROENERT: It's looking like a pretty cold system. So, it would be snow…it probably impacts the travel going north and west through the Blues, or if you headed up to the Panhandle or even east towards Pocatello, even the McCall area and some of the mountains around us, the Boise area could get some snow as well.

PRENTICE: Good news for ski resorts, which are opening later this week. The inversions that we have been experiencing for the last couple of days, will those be sticking around?

GROENERT: They will. The valleys will hold on to that inversion. We don't see those really mixing out anytime soon. This system on Tuesday would be our best chance to briefly mix that out. But as I said, the dry weather that returns late in the week is just going to bring back the inversion. So, whatever hope we do have is going to be with this storm system, Tuesday night into Wednesday.

PRENTICE: We'll be paying really close attention to the forecast hourly, if not daily, for the next few days. Dave, to you and your colleagues, thank you and to you and your family. Happy Thanksgiving.

GROENERT: You too, George. Thank you.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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