Even as the omicron variant sweeps across the region, millions of Americans will be driving or flying during what’s typically the busiest travel period of the year. Masking mandates remain in effect on all public transportation, while health experts continue to push for vaccinations and a return to double masks or KN95 masks in indoor public spaces.
Here are some questions and answers about getting around over the days ahead.
Despite rising gas prices, driving continues to be the preferred mode of travel, with more than 100 million drivers nationwide predicted to hit the roads from Dec. 23 through Jan. 2, nearing a high of 2019, when 108 million motorists got behind the wheel, according to the AAA.
Prices for regular gas in the state shot up to roughly $3.50 Tuesday, a $1.21 jump since last year, according to AAA.
The worst traffic in the region will be on Monday, with congestion anticipated to spike 358% on the Long Island Expressway and the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, according to AAA Northeast spokesperson Robert Sinclair Jr., who cited data from transportation analytics firm INRIX.
"There is still tremendous pent-up demand for people to travel despite the surge of the omicron variant of COVID," Sinclair said.
He urged motorists to drive safely, as 20,160 people died in car crashes nationally in the first half of this year, an 18% rise since the same period last year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Nassau and Suffolk County police departments will be on the lookout for intoxicated motorists. Nassau police said in a statement: "There is going to be special vigilance for driving while intoxicated."
Suffolk police said there will be additional DWI patrols during the week of Christmas and New Year’s.
The Nassau Inter-County Express, or NICE Bus, will experience holiday-related schedule changes. On Friday and Dec. 31, most routes will operate on a Saturday schedule. On Christmas and New Year's Day, buses will run on a Saturday schedule.
Service on the N16X also will be suspended between Thursday and Jan. 20, as Nassau Community College is on a break.
Suffolk County Transit will not operate any buses on Christmas Day.
The Long Island Rail Road is adding 13 eastbound trains to its regular weekday schedule on Thursday and Friday. The railroad will operate on a regular weekend schedule on Christmas Day.
The LIRR will again add 13 eastbound afternoon trains on Dec. 30 and Dec. 31. Also on New Year’s Eve, the LIRR will add 21 westbound trains — 18 to Penn Station and three to Atlantic Terminal.
The railroad will operate on a regular weekend schedule on New Year's Day, but with 19 additional early morning, eastbound trains for people returning home after celebrating in New York City.
MTA acting chairman and CEO Janno Lieber said revelers should hop on public transportation to avoid "spending the holidays sitting in traffic."
Air travel is expected to continue rebounding to near pre-pandemic levels, so leave plenty of time to catch your flight. While there are no federal testing requirements for domestic travel, passengers are advised to check with their airline for additional guidelines.
For five consecutive days beginning Dec. 16, Transportation Security Administration daily checkpoint volumes across the country exceeded 2 million passengers, TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein tweeted Tuesday. There were more than 2.4 million passengers screened daily from Dec. 16 through Dec. 20 in 2019, per data on the TSA website.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently does not require COVID-19 testing or proof of vaccination prior to domestic travel, the agency recommends that those who are not fully vaccinated get a viral test one to three days before and after their trip.
While there is free on-site COVID-19 testing at LaGuardia and JFK airports, passengers are advised to test prior to getting to the airport.
Passengers returning from overseas must show a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than one day before their trip, regardless of vaccination status.
Officials will announce later this week whether they will hold the annual celebration. As of now, the outdoor event is open only to fully vaccinated revelers on a first-come, first-serve basis.