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Travelers should brace for busy Thanksgiving holiday on roads, in air

Now that many COVID-19 restrictions have been eased, look for many people to hit the roads and fill the skies to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday with loved ones.

How many will be coming to Las Vegas isn’t clear. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority said it doesn’t have an estimate for how many people will travel to Las Vegas for the holiday weekend, but noted there have been upward of 300,000 visitors in years past.

Nationally, an estimated 53.4 million people will travel for the Thanksgiving holiday this year, up 13 percent from 2020, according to AAA.

“Travel volumes have recovered within 5 percent of pre-pandemic levels and air travel has almost entirely recovered from its dramatic decline during, up 80 percent over last year,” Sergio Avila, spokesperson for AAA Nevada, said in a statement. “Those traveling this Thanksgiving can expect to face more crowded roads and airports than they’ve seen in some time.”

If you’re traveling this holiday, here’s what you need to know:

Air travel

With a large increase of passengers expected, McCarran International Airport officials urge travelers to utilize the following tips to help navigate the facility during the busy holiday week.

Arrive early: Travelers should add 60 to 90 minutes to their planned travel time to account for parking time.

Mask up: Masks are still required at airports, on airplanes and on other modes of transportation, including shuttle buses and at the rental car center.

Prepare for delays: Even if the weather isn’t a factor in Las Vegas it can be elsewhere, which can impact the entire network. Travelers should prepare for potential delays by bringing items such as snacks, child care essentials and medications.

Arrange ahead: Travelers requiring special accommodations should make arrangements for those services prior to arriving at the airport. Wheelchairs will be in high demand and travelers will face delays if they don’t plan ahead.

Prepare for the checkpoint: Travelers should educate themselves on the latest procedures at Transportation Security Administration checkpoints before arriving at the airport. Information can be found on the TSA’s website.

Airport parking

A major focus for McCarran this year is on parking and ensuring travelers give themselves adequate time to catch their flights.

“For the past several months, parking at Terminal 1 has been filling up nearly every weekend,” said Joe Rajchel, McCarran spokesman. “This will continue into Thanksgiving week. Those traveling should plan to arrive early and give themselves up to an additional hour to account for parking. It is never too early to start planning.”

Airport parking locations and fees can be found at www.mccarran.com/parking

Those with tight travel windows are asked to consider using a ride-hailing service or taxi or be dropped off by a friend or family member.

Passenger pickup

Those picking up arriving travelers at McCarran are asked to utilize the cellphone lot while waiting. Another option is to use short-term parking to keep cars from looping around the terminals. The first 15 minutes of short-term parking are free, rising to $3 per hour thereafter.

On the road

Roads around Southern Nevada are expected to be extra congested in the days surrounding Thanksgiving. Consequently, the Regional Transportation Commission is encouraging residents to utilize public transit options.

Those include free park-and-ride facilities to help ease congestion on the roadways. Those with plans that include the resort corridor can use the Deuce on the Strip, which runs every 15-20 minutes 24 hours a day.

RTC buses will operate on a Sunday schedule on Thanksgiving Day and a Saturday schedule on Friday.

When the holiday is over and visitors head back to California, the RTC said peak times on Interstate 15 will be Saturday between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. and Sunday between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. To avoid the up to 20-mile traffic backup that is common on busy holidays, drivers should travel outside of peak hours or be prepared for longer than normal travel times.

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter. Send questions and comments to roadwarrior@reviewjournal.com.