AAA anticipates 1.3 million travelers during Thanksgiving weekend

Calm seems to be the word of the day. On this most traveled holiday of the year, passengers at Newark Liberty International Airport said they were pleasantly surprised.

“Nobody’s on the road, there’s no one here. It’s pretty amazing,” said New York resident Tara Bacigalupo.

But that’s not because less people are traveling. According to AAA Northeast, 50.9 million people are expected to travel for the holiday nationwide, and 1.3 million of those are from New Jersey — the highest in a decade. Cars are still the most popular mode of travel, with nearly 89 percent of people using that method. Eight point seven percent will fly and 2.4 percent will go by other means.

“That’s a good sign for everybody. That means that people are ready to travel, they have a little extra money in their pocket and they’re confident that they’re going to be able to share the wealth and share that time with their family and friends,” said Cathleen Lewis, director of public affairs and government relations for AAA Northeast.

Lewis says it’s a 3.3 percent increase in travelers from last year, the most volume since 2005. But, most roads were clear from traffic today.

Keith LaRue and his wife were at a New Jersey Turnpike rest stop heading from Connecticut to Maryland.

When asked how the roads have been, LaRue said, “Not bad. You know, it’s a little slow with the rain. GW Bridge was a little slow, but all in all it’s not a bad trip today.”

About her trip, Queens resident Dorothy Marks said, “I expected it to be much worse, but it really wasn’t bad. Just a short nine minute tie up on the Major Deegan and so far its been pretty good.”

“You are seeing more and more folks, even as you just talk to your friends and family, that say you know what, it’s not worth going to work for the day, it’s not worth sending my kids to school for that half day. I’m going to leave on Tuesday night. So, you see more of that these days,” said Lewis.

And higher gas prices aren’t deterring drivers. New Jerseyans are paying an average of $2.57 at the pump, 35 cents more than the same time last year, though still some of the cheapest in the tri-state area.

How are this year’s higher gas prices effecting travel plans? Not much, according to Long Island resident Fran. “You have to do what you have to do, that it. Family is family,” she said.

The Attorney General’s Office is also urging people to drive with caution during the holiday weekend. There’s been an overall increase in traffic fatalities, even with last year’s slight dip during Thanksgiving. There were seven traffic related deaths compared to 15 the year before, reminding people it’s better to get there late than not at all.

AAA says the biggest crush is likely to be felt on Sunday, because although you can extend the time it takes it to get to your holiday destination, you can’t extend the time before you need to get home.