Thanksgiving traffic expected to pick up in the Valley; flights in good shape

Millions from the Carolinas are expected to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday period.
Millions from the Carolinas are expected to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday period.(Source: Tony Webster / CC BY-SA 2.0)
Published: Nov. 23, 2022 at 7:20 AM MST|Updated: Nov. 23, 2022 at 8:56 AM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Thanksgiving travel is back in Arizona. It’s one of the busiest holidays for driving, and this year will be no different. AAA estimates that 54.6 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home this Thanksgiving, a 1.5% increase over 2021. “You know, always pack your patience before your trip and if something goes wrong, try to keep a cool head. You know, pull off the road to a safe area so you can make a phone call or change your tire or whatever needs to be addressed in a safe area away from traffic,” said an Garin Groff, ADOT spokesperson.

If you are hitting the road, ADOT says you can expect much heavier traffic Wednesday. “We’re expecting traffic to really start picking up this afternoon into the evening. So, we’re advising drivers to either leave early or later in the day if they want to avoid that really heavy peak travel time,” he said.

ADOT predicts the heaviest traffic will be on the I-10. “Some of the highways where we’re expecting the most traffic this weekend will be i-10 between Phoenix and Tucson, and also I-10 from Phoenix out toward California. Also the highway up from Phoenix to Payson is expected to be pretty busy too. With that high volume of traffic it’s really important for drivers just to obey the speed limit, and leave plenty of extra vehicle so you’ve got time to slow down safely,” Groff said.

Unfortunately with all this travel, a big thing to keep in mind is safety. “This is unfortunately a weekend where there can be numerous fatalities we had 18 fatalities on state highways and city streets last year. Five of those were alcohol related. So we’re really advising drivers to slow down. Pay attention to the speed limit. Make sure you get plenty of rest before you travel. Pay attention to the road and make sure you don’t drink and drive,” he said.

One of the good things about a holiday weekend is that ADOT does not have scheduled closures. That’s because their biggest effort is to keep traffic flowing as much as they can. “However, there can be some existing Lane restrictions and work zones. You can find those at, the statewide travel information website, we list ongoing construction activities, and it’s also updated 24 hours a day with information about crashes and closures.” Groff said.

ADOT is advising drivers to be ready for those delays by having water in your vehicle, snacks, medication, warm clothing and a blanket. “You could be on the road longer than you anticipate,” Groff said.

Flying by air? Plan ahead, but fight disruptions are minimal

If you’re flying out to visit loved ones for the Thanksgiving holiday, good news: fight cancellations are relatively low across the country!

As of 8 a.m. Wednesday morning, Flight Aware was only reporting 30 cancellations in the entire country along with roughly 800 delayed flights. Flight Aware also showed no cancellations out of Sky Harbor so far.

Sky Harbor officials tell Arizona’s Family the busiest time for people leaving town is “through about noon and then we’ll see later this afternoon into early evening.” The longest security wait time our crew found this morning at the airport was around 20 minutes.

Heather Shelbrack with Sky Harbor says late afternoon until late evening will be the busiest time frame if you’re picking people up from the airport.

“Definitely pick up at the 44th Street and Washington Phoenix Sky Train station to help you avoid that roadway traffic and terminal curb congestion,” Shelbrack said.

There’s also a cell phone waiting lot at the stop so you can wait and then drive up and pick up right at the curb when your guest arrives.

Sky Harbor recommends travelers arrive to the airport two hours before a domestic flight. If you’re planning to park at the airport, give yourself extra time to park and keep in mind some lots can fill up like the East Economy lot.

“We encourage travelers to check our website for up-to-the-minute parking availability and we are hoping that they have booked in advance, that they have reservations but if they haven’t, you can check our website,” Shelbrack said.