Whether hitting the road, rails or airport during the busiest travel week of the year, the message is the same: Take it slow and plan ahead.
Almost 50 million people, the highest number since 2005, will load up their cars and get away for Thanksgiving, according to AAA. At the same time, Kennedy and LaGuardia airports are gearing up to handle a combined 1 million passengers during the weekend. And the Long Island Rail Road is beefing up service with extra trains.
“You can expect trips to take about 3.5 times longer during this holiday weekend,” said Robert Sinclair, spokesman for AAA Northeast. “Gas prices are down and the economy is doing relatively well, so people want to travel.”
Public transportation may be the best bet to catch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade as it winds 2.5 miles from 77th Street and Central Park West to 34th Street-Herald Square. About 3.5 million people are expected to line the route, hoping to catch a glimpse of the elaborate floats, bands and entertainers.
Parade organizers are monitoring the weather forecast to see if Astronaut Snoopy, SpongeBob SquarePants and other giant balloons can fly high to greet the cheering crowds or be grounded by strong winds.
The LIRR is adding a dozen extra eastbound trains for early Wednesday afternoon. On Thanksgiving, six additional trains are being offered to those headed to the parade and another 11 eastbound trains after the parade.
Subways and buses in New York City will operate on a Sunday schedule on Thanksgiving and return to a weekday schedule Friday, with “minor adjustments in departure times,” according to the MTA.
Anyone thinking about driving anywhere near the parade route should factor in multiple street closures in the area of the parade, including most of Central Park West from 86th to 60th streets, as well as a large swath of midtown streets in the area of Fifth Avenue to Seventh Avenue from 59th Street south to 40th Street.
Navigating LaGuardia Airport will be especially challenging, since the rebuilding project makes entering and leaving the site difficult. Travelers are being encouraged to use the free LaGuardia Link Q70 bus that runs from Terminal B, C and D to the E, F, M, R and 7 subway lines in Jackson Heights, as well as the Woodside station that houses both the LIRR and the 7 line.
People also can access updated information on parking availability, taxi wait times, walk times to gates, security wait times at checkpoints and a flight tracker through the Port Authority website.
Amtrak officials said the rail system is adding trains and seats at its major hubs in anticipation of holiday travel.
In Suffolk County, officials promised to crack down on intoxicated and distracted drivers. As an incentive to stay off the roads, the county and Lyft are providing discounts for local residents who use the ride service.
HOLIDAY TRAVEL TIPS
- Check your car maintenance, especially the tires and battery, before hitting the road.
- Track your flight, check security wait times and taxi lines at LaGuardia Airport and Kennedy Airport through the websites laguardiaairport.com and jfkairport.com
- The LIRR is adding extra trains to handle holiday crowds. Get schedules at new.mta.info.