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Traveling for Thanksgiving? Here's what to expect on the road and in the air

Experts recommend planning in advance to make sure that your Thanksgiving travel plans go smoothly.
/ Source: TODAY

It's shaping up to be a busy year for holiday travel.

Ahead of Thanksgiving next week, experts are warning that people should prepare for higher prices and longer wait times. AAA estimates more than 53 million Americans are expected to travel for the holiday, marking a 13% increase from last year.

NBC's Kerry Sanders spoke to experts in the travel industry for some advice on how to make sure you get to enjoy your holiday celebrations.

Make a plan in advance

No matter how you're traveling, it can't hurt to do some research. This is especially important when flying. Customers traveling by air can expect longer wait times at the airport and hourslong hold times if calling airlines, so try to plan ahead and give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination.

“People are going to be traveling for the first time probably since the pandemic and they’re not used to the whole travel experience, so get familiar with your airline check-in procedures," Greg Chin, the communications division director for the Miami-Dade Aviation Department in Florida told TODAY. "Do the research now and planning ahead.”

It can be especially helpful to double-check the Transportation Security Administration's rules about what food items can be carried on and what needs to be checked. Thanksgiving staples like meats, baked goods and stuffing can be carried on, but liquids like alcohol, cranberry sauce and preserves need to go in a checked bag.

Remember federal rules are in place

The COVID-19 prevention protocols in place on public transit are set by the federal government, so they may be stricter than local rules and regulations.

Federal law currently requires that all passengers, including fully vaccinated travelers, wear masks at all times when using public transit, including buses, trains and airplanes. The regulations are in place through at least January 2022. Those who refuse to wear a mask could be charged between $500-$1,000 for first offenses and $1,000-$3,000 for repeat offenses.

“Wearing a mask protects the traveling public and all of the personnel who make the travel experience safe, secure, and comfortable,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas in a press release. “We will continue to enforce the mask mandate as long as necessary to protect public health and safety.”

Prepare for higher gas prices

If you're avoiding public transit and driving yourself to your destination, brace yourself for high prices at the pump.

According to GasBuddy, the average price per gallon of gasoline on Thanksgiving Day is expected to cost $3.35. That's more than a dollar increase than what it was in 2020.

In some states, the price can be even higher. In California, customers have reported seeing prices as high as $6.59 a gallon for premium gas.

Keep calm while in transit

One major issue for airlines lately has been unruly passengers. Flight attendants and other employees have been shouted at and physically assaulted by passengers. The Federal Aviation Administration has seen a dramatic jump in the number of incidents, reporting at least 973 investigations so far this year.

Chin advised that passengers hoping to enjoy their holidays keep calm and focus on getting to their final destinations.

“Don’t ruin your travel plans, don’t ruin your holiday plans, because you couldn’t behave for a few hours," Chin said.

Being involved in one of these incidents can carry heavy penalties. Customers can be fined as much as $3,700 by the FAA. In addition, airlines are keeping and enforcing no-fly lists, which could bar a customer from using an airline for life. Criminal and civil charges can also be brought against an unruly passenger.