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Pack Your Patience This Thanksgiving

AAA is predicting an overall 11 percent increase in travelers this Thanksgiving holiday. The agency says the jump “would signify an important upturn in travel volume for the holiday after a year of negligible growth in 2009, and two years after a historic 25.2 percent decline in travel in 2008 … This year’s projected increase in holiday travel appears to be the result of modestly improved economic conditions since last year.” Even after the 11 percent increase, however, Thanksgiving travel will remain below peak pre-recession levels.

Within that general 11 percent, air travel is supposed to see a 3.5 percent rise. 1.62 million people are expected to take to the skies this holiday.

For travelers this year, it would be wise to pack a little patience. Many people will encounter the TSA’s new screening policies for the first time. This means a lot of questions about the scanners, and perhaps significant backlash if people realize the new pat-downs are more intimate than they expected. Remember, too, that many travelers may opt out of the scanners in protest, causing longer lines at security checkpoints with the scanners in place.

It bears mentioning, however, that while scanners are widespread, they are hardly ubiquitous. There are only about 300 in use at roughly 60 airports, so the majority of travelers will still go through traditional metal detectors. This also means the planned protest, while capable of disrupting individual checkpoints, is unlikely to grind entire airports to a halt.

That task is usually left to the weather, anyway. This year, the coasts look clear, so to speak, but widespread showers and snow showers in the Midwest could cause problems. Chicago is forecast to receive showers and snow showers Wednesday, while St. Louis is looking at rain and Minneapolis could get all snow. It would be wise to plan for delays if you’re flying from or through these or other cities in the Midwest, and be sure to keep an eye on ripple-effect delays in other major cities across the country. Fortunately, Atlanta, D.C./Baltimore, New York, and Los Angeles are all looking clear—weather-wise, at least.

Readers, where are you traveling this year? What makes you more nervous, bad weather or TSA protests?

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