Thanksgiving travel expected to reach near-record levels

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DENVER (KDVR) — Nearly a million Coloradans are expected to travel this Thanksgiving holiday weekend, and the bulk of them will be driving, according to AAA.

AAA estimates 925,000 Coloradans will travel more than 50 miles from home. That figure does not include visitors from other states who will travel to Colorado. 

“So expect traffic and expect a return to normal in some ways, because these traffic counts are only about 3.7% below 2019, which was a record travel year,” AAA Colorado spokesperson Skyler McKinley said. 

He said the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is typically the heaviest travel day on roads.

One traveler said her experience on the road lines up with that.

“It is the most that we’ve seen on the road. Everything has been clear, but today has been the busiest because it’s the holiday,” tourist Vanessa Garcia told FOX31.

Adding to the traffic, Colorado’s high country saw a light snowfall at the beginning of the peak travel period on Wednesday afternoon. 

“There are a lot more cars on the side, so I don’t think we’re the only ones having a little difficulty driving in the snow. It’s a little slick,” Garcia said. 

Thanksgiving travel safety tips

“Speed is the number one factor that leads to crashes. So if you are in the high country where it’s slick out, slow down, budget extra time and know that you’re going to be sharing the roads with folks who might not be experienced winter drivers,” McKinley said. 

For those traveling relatively close to home, McKinley suggested driving on Thanksgiving Day, when traffic volumes are expected to be slightly less.

“The odds of you being stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic for the entire travel period, not likely, because it is spread out over the Wednesday through Sunday,” he said. 

McKinley advised travelers to plan their return trip early in the morning on Friday, Saturday or Sunday to beat the rush. The heaviest traffic volumes are expected between 12-8 p.m. each day. 

“Know that to some extent, traffic is unavoidable,” he said. “It sure beats being stuck at home alone for the holidays.”

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