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Here are some tips for those traveling out of Arizona this Thanksgiving

Railroad travelers and commuters make their way through Union Station in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016. As tens of millions of Americans take to the roads, airports and railways for the Thanksgiving holiday, many are hoping to take a break from the rancor and division of the presidential election and focus instead on family and tradition. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

PHOENIX — Thanksgiving is just days away, which means Arizonans are getting ready to spend time with their families, watch hours of football and, most importantly, eat enough food for a week.

But the coming of the holiday season will bring more than just stomachaches: Nearly 51 million Americans — including 972,000 Arizonans — are expected to travel by road or by air this Thanksgiving.

That is a 3.3 percent increase in travelers compared to the same time last year, Michelle Donati, a spokeswoman with Triple-A Arizona, said, making for the highest volume of travelers since 2007.

Here are some helpful tips for those who will be among the estimated 972,000 people in Arizona who will travel ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.


Planning on driving to your destination?

More than 844,000 Arizonans are expected to hit the road this Thanksgiving, an increase of more than 3 percent compared to last year.

For those who are opting to drive to a nearby destination, Donati suggested that travelers ensure that they plan their routes ahead of time, have enough gas in the tank and monitor roadway conditions as they go.

However, Donati warned, it won’t be cheap: Gas prices in Arizona have increased to a statewide average of $2.40 per gallon.

While Arizona still boasts the 13th lowest gas prices in the country, Donati said the cost to fill up is typically cheaper around this time of year, but the lingering affects of the wild hurricane season have increased prices.

“Strong demand for gasoline — coupled with the lingering impact of recent months’ hurricanes — will lead drivers to pay the highest Thanksgiving gas prices since 2015,” she said.

Tucson still boasts the lowest gas price average in the state, at $2.30 per gallon, while Flagstaff falls on the opposite end of the spectrum at $2.63 per gallon.

But that’s not all: If you are planning to rent a vehicle for your road trip, that will cost you more, too. Daily rates for car rentals have hit a five-year high at $70 per day, thanks to demand and the overall cost of newer vehicles.

Travelers in Arizona should expect the roadways to be more congested, due to the number of people who will travel during the same time period. Donati said holiday travel is expected to pick up on Tuesday and linger until Nov. 26.

Some of the most congested areas in the Phoenix metro area for Thanksgiving travel congestion include the Interstate 10 west of downtown Phoenix, the Interstate 17 and I-10 interchange and the southbound Loop 101 at Guadalupe Road.

The Arizona Department of Transportation said there were no planned freeway closures over the weekend, but the speed limits on some popular highways would be reduced in an attempt to prevent crashes.

What about if you’re hitting the skies this holiday?

Do you have to be somewhere for Thanksgiving that isn’t just a drive away? You’re still going to want to plan ahead for that trip, Donati said.

Hopefully you bought your ticket already, because you should expect to pay quite a bit more if you are buying it just days ahead of your trip.

But if you haven’t, be sure to check out travel websites like Orbitz, Kayak and Expedia in order to find the cheapest deals on flights.

Donati said more than 66,000 people in Arizona are expected to fly to their destination ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, a 4.4 percent jump compared to last year.

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport was bracing for a busy travel week.

Spokeswoman Heather Lissner said the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the busiest day — both inside and outside the airport.

“Our roadways are going to be very busy,” Lissner said. “We’re encouraging those who are picking up or dropping off friends and family to use the 44th Street and Washington Sky Train station.”

Related: Sky Harbor ending early bag check service this month

Lissner also suggested that travelers give themselves at least two hours to check their bags and get through security if they are flying within the U.S. For international flights, Lissner said allowing three hours is good.

As for what they can bring in their carry-ons, Lissner said it is a good idea to check all their bags to make sure everything will be allowed through security.

But travelers will experience a new thing this year: Security-checkpoint wait times.

Lissner said you can see these “on flight information displays and visual paging screens, as well as in the Phoenix Sky Train screens.”

KTAR News’ Kathy Cline contributed to this report. 

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