Thousands of Arizonans have many miles to go before they give thanks and dig in.
Some 683,000 people statewide will hit the road for the holiday, according to AAA Arizona. They’ll join 33.2 million motorists nationwide.
“The overall statewide figure for (road) travel is 683,000 Arizonans, and if you compare that to last year’s figure, it equates to about 6,000 fewer people traveling this Thanksgiving compared to last,” said Michelle Donati, AAA Arizona spokeswoman. “This year’s drop is less than a percent. It shows that there’s a sense among consumers that there’s improved consumer confidence and it points to a recovery in the travel industry. Consumers are feeling a little more comfortable making those leisure travel decisions.”
At Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, an estimated 125,000 passengers will travel through the airport today. That’s 40 percent more than a typical Wednesday of 90,000, said Deborah Ostreicher, the airport’s deputy aviation director.
“We hope that it does not result in any kind of backup,” she said. “Wednesday historically is the very busiest day, and Sunday and Monday will be very busy as well.”
The airport has seven additional security lanes across four different checkpoints. Checkpoint C’s two new lanes add to the previous four. These expansions are helping passengers to get through security more quickly and efficiently, Ostreicher said.
“We also have a special going on at the airport where you can get 40 percent off parking in the terminal,” she said. “You can park in the terminal and you can walk straight in and catch your plane. We are predicting to have plenty of room because at holiday time the garages at the terminals don’t generally fill up ... but it’s still while supplies last.”
Discount coupons for terminal parking — at $15 a day Nov. 18-30 — are available at www.skyharbor.com. Other recommendations include checking your flight status before you arrive at the airport and arriving two hours before your flight departs if you are parking in remote lots, checking bags or traveling internationally.
Motorists won’t face any construction road closures throughout the holiday season, said Doug Nintzel, Arizona Department of Transportation spokesman.
“We really try to limit things to overnight hours, and that will not pertain to this weekend,” he said. We’ve entered the period when we work hard to minimize closures through the New Year’s weekend.”
Drivers heading north on Interstate 17 in the north Valley will have two new lanes to use, including a car-pool lane, from Jomax Road to just south of Carefree Highway (state Route 74). The new northbound lanes along the five-mile stretch of I-17 represent the latest milestone for the $142 million project to add traffic capacity between Loop 101 and Carefree Highway.
“Just know you’re going to be sharing the road with a lot of other folks (today) and into the night,” Nintzel said. “Be patient, and that includes the trip back home on Sunday.”
With the exception of gas, travel prices have dropped since last year, with hotels down more than 10 percent, airfare down 4 percent and car rental rates down 3 percent, Donati said.
“We’re actually looking at a few (gas) prices about 30 percent higher than this time last year,” she said. “There’s no change here in terms of auto travel despite the fact that gas prices are 30 percent higher.”
Before hitting the road, it’s a good idea to make sure your vehicle is prepared for the trip, Donati said.
“One trend that we’ve seen is that in the current economy many motorists neglect vehicle maintenance,” she said. “Whether they do it themselves or they take their vehicle to a shop and just get a quick 15- to 20-minute inspection, we encourage them to get their vehicle checked. More than half the calls we respond to for emergency roadside service could have been prevented with preventative maintenance. That’s one way to ensure you’re sitting at the Thanksgiving dinner table rather than on the side of the road waiting for some assistance.”