Why putting off Thanksgiving travel until Thanksgiving day may be easiest and safest

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NEW YORK — Whether by car, train or bus, travel on the day before Thanksgiving is slow. Very slow. That could be good reason to postpone travel for the holiday until the holiday arrives.

This year, the going is even slower than it's been in more than a decade due to very high travel volume. That, in turn, is the result of some good news.

"Because of the economy being better," said Robert Sinclair, media manager at AAA. "Household income is up, spending is higher."

It means more people can afford to travel for Thanksgiving. From a traffic perspective, though, that's bad news, as car passengers like Carol Hacker learned from experience.

"We had to go through the Holland Tunnel," she said about the slow crawl out of Manhattan into New Jersey. "That was like being stuck in cement."

The tube across the Hudson is 1.6 miles long, but on Wednesday evening, the journey through the tunnel took at least 15 minutes, not including delays just as long on the approach into the tunnel and on the roadway coming out of it. And the Holland Tunnel was the fastest of the Hudson River crossings.

Time was also on the minds of passengers at Penn Station, who were getting on the rails.

As Tatiana Meyer was waiting for a train to Washington, D.C., she recalled the glacial first leg of her trip. It was by bus from Boston to Penn Station. "Ten minutes had passed," she told PIX11 News, "and I looked at my Google Maps thing and it said one minute."

In other words, it took ten minutes, she said, to travel what ordinarily takes one minute. Subsequently, she got on the train.

She managed to leave Manhattan and head south before things headed south figuratively. Around 5:25 Wednesday evening, an Amtrak switching problem outside of the East River tunnels started a series of inbound train delays on the LIRR that was made all the worse by an additional switching issue along LIRR lines in Mineola. The delays were reported by the railway to be about 30 minutes in length, but some passengers posted on social media that their trains were stuck completely.

One rail rider, who was headed to an NJTransit train, rather than the LIRR, shared advice that she said was universal for all rail travel on the year’s busiest travel day.

“I would suggest leave ahead of time,” said Helen Grant, who was riding from Ridgewood, Queens to Ridgewood, New Jersey for Thanksgiving. “Give yourself time to get where you are going.”

Her message was echoed at the airport.

“I took the day off,” said one passenger Wednesday morning at Newark Liberty Airport, “so we could get here two hours before our domestic flight.”

Wednesday is the busiest day to travel in the busiest travel year since 2005, according to AAA. This year, 51 million people are in transit for Thanksgiving, the overwhelming majority of them on Wednesday.

It’s why AAA has a simple recommendation about holiday travel. “If you're going to take a trip of 100 or 200 miles or less,” said Robert Sinclair, “wait ‘til Thanksgiving morning. It's like a ghost town on the roads.”

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