America travels for Thanksgiving

By Mary Gilbert, Eric Zerkel and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 5:30 PM ET, Wed November 22, 2023
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3:58 p.m. ET, November 22, 2023

Your Thanksgiving Day forecast: Much calmer following days of disruptions

From CNN Meteorologist Mary Gilbert

A dry and cool Thanksgiving day is in the forecast for most of the US following days of disruptive weather leading up to the holiday.

The wide-reaching storm that slammed the eastern US on Tuesday and continued to cause issues on Wednesday will fully exit the country on Thursday, leaving behind much calmer, dry weather in its wake.

One big exception to the general quiet weather across the country will be a snowstorm over the northern Rockies that begins to develop early Thursday. 

Accumulating snowfall is likely across portions of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming during the daytime and could lead to tricky travel on interstates 90 and 15. By Thursday evening, snow will work its way into parts of Nevada, Utah, Colorado and Nebraska. 

Elsewhere, a few showers are possible across coastal Texas and southern Louisiana, especially later in the day. 

3:22 p.m. ET, November 22, 2023

It starts with hello: Here are etiquette tips for a smoother flight this Thanksgiving

From CNN's Marnie Hunter

Travelers wheel luggage toward Spirit Airlines check-in desk at George Bush Intercontinental Airport, on November 21, in Houston.
Travelers wheel luggage toward Spirit Airlines check-in desk at George Bush Intercontinental Airport, on November 21, in Houston. Jason Fochtman/Houston Chronicle/Getty Images

Planes are going to be packed. Patience will be tried. Some level of aggravation is all but inevitable. Throw in a seat-kicker, a tipsy stranger and someone who’s blissfully barefoot in November and the Thanksgiving odyssey becomes a little more challenging.

And this year is poised to be a record-setter for air travel. The Transportation Security Administration expects to screen more people on the Sunday after the holiday (November 26) than any day in its more than 20-year history, and some airlines are expecting their busiest Thanksgiving travel season ever.

It’ll all go more smoothly if every passenger brings some common courtesy along for the ride, so CNN Travel spoke with experts about the best approaches to airplane etiquette.

The missing ingredient, in many cases, is self-awareness. People tend to get wrapped up in their own journey and forget that there’s a whole planeload of other passengers.

“It’s always kind of mind-blowing to see that because it’s my bag, and my overhead bin, and my seat, and my flight, my connection and, you know, my drink, and it’s very me me me when it comes to just how people behave on an airplane.

“And it’s like, there’s hundreds of you,” said Rich Henderson, who’s been a flight attendant for a decade. “You’ve got to be aware of your surroundings, you’ve got to be respectful of the people around you.”

It starts with ‘hello’

Be polite to the flight crew greeting you. “It goes a long way when you’re pleasant to the first person you see on the plane,” said Diane Gottsman, an etiquette expert and owner of The Protocol School of Texas.

Andrew Henderson, a flight attendant with 20 years of experience, seconds that notion.

“A simple ‘hello’ or ‘thank you’ or acknowledgment of our existence is polite. I think that’s some of the etiquette that’s being lost these days with all the noise-canceling headphones and devices we’re on. We’re all so busy that we forget that humans exist in the world,” said Andrew Henderson.

He is married to Rich Henderson and together they run the website and social media accounts Two Guys on a Plane, where “the sass is complimentary.”

Read more about the proper etiquette for flying

2:10 p.m. ET, November 22, 2023

It's a busy travel day in the US. If your luggage is delayed, damaged or lost, here's what you should do

From CNN's Forrest Brown

Travelers board a bus to LaGuardia Airport in New York City on Wednedsay.
Travelers board a bus to LaGuardia Airport in New York City on Wednedsay. Anthony Behar/Sipa/AP

It’s enough to give anyone already on edge about how to handle possible flight delays and cancellations yet another reason to pop an antacid or two: the prospect of delayed, lost or damaged baggage.

The concern is valid, and handing over checked suitcases can almost feel like a leap of faith these days.

Yet you’re not totally powerless. There are things you can do and strategies you can take to help avoid losing a bag or at least minimize the impact of delayed, lost, stolen and damaged luggage.

Book nonstop flights: If you’re really concerned about your checked luggage, prioritize nonstop flights or at least layovers with a generous amount of time, said Scott Keyes, the founder of flight deals and travel advice site Going.com (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights).

“Bags are most likely to get lost in that transfer between planes at connection, especially if there’s a tight connection.” And he said that’s doubly so for international flights with tight connections.

Consider discount airlines: He said full-service airlines are more likely to lose your bags than discount airlines, which tend to have more nonstop flights that have a lower likelihood of losing a bag in transit.

Keyes said he wouldn’t make a booking decision based solely on this, but it’s “an interesting side factor to consider.”

Read more about what you can do

1:09 p.m. ET, November 22, 2023

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade should go on without a weather hitch

From CNN Meteorologist Mary Gilbert

A view of a Minion balloon during the 2022 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
A view of a Minion balloon during the 2022 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Michael Loccisano/Getty Images/FILE

Known for its iconic performances and even more iconic balloons, the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is a holiday staple. But the weather is a huge factor in determining if the world-famous balloons are cleared for takeoff or if they never get off the ground.

Fortunately, the weather looks like it will cooperate for Thursday's spectacle in the heart of New York City.

The actual air temperature will be around 46 degrees when the parade kicks off Thursday morning with plenty of sunshine, but a slight breeze will make it feel more like 41 degrees. While this is a bit chilly, these temperatures are nearly spot on with what’s typical for late November in Manhattan. 

Winds will not be completely calm on Thursday morning, but will remain light enough for the beloved balloons to fly. Following a wind-driven disastrous parade in 1997, rules were introduced to ground balloons when wind speeds eclipse 32 mph. Wind gusts on Thursday morning are expected to top out at around 15 mph. 

12:44 p.m. ET, November 22, 2023

What it looks like around the US as Americans head to their Thanksgiving destinations

This Thanksgiving travel period is expected to be the busiest in several years with an estimated more than 55.4 million people on the roads and in the skies, AAA says.

Many Americans across the US are heading to airports and train stations today while others are hitting the road ahead of tomorrow's holiday.

Here's a look at what the holiday commute looks like this year:

Travelers wait in a security line at Denver International Airport on Tuesday.
Travelers wait in a security line at Denver International Airport on Tuesday. Thomas Peipert/AP

A person sleeps in a terminal at Los Angeles International Airport on Tuesday.
A person sleeps in a terminal at Los Angeles International Airport on Tuesday. David Swanson/AFP/Getty Images

Heavy traffic moves along I-295 on Wednesday morning in Washington, DC.
Heavy traffic moves along I-295 on Wednesday morning in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Travelers walk to their flight gates at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago on Tuesday.
Travelers walk to their flight gates at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago on Tuesday. Vincent Alban/Reuters

Passengers wait to board their Amtrak trains at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia on Wednesday.
Passengers wait to board their Amtrak trains at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia on Wednesday. Matt Rourke/AP

12:27 p.m. ET, November 22, 2023

Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson airport had its busiest morning rush ever today

From CNN's Alta Spells

 Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, saw its busiest morning rush in TSA Atlanta history on Wednesday morning the airport posted in a status update on X.

As of 8 a.m. ET Wednesday, a record 32,029 passengers had been screened, the airport reported, adding that “the wait was 37 minutes and all checkpoint lanes were operational” during peak operation.

The airport also posted “No long lines! We’re wide open!” on a live video Wednesday morning, showing open lanes and passengers moving swiftly through TSA lines on Facebook.

Hartsfield-Jackson is the busiest airport in the world according to the airports website

11:56 a.m. ET, November 22, 2023

More than 1,000 flight delays reported as weather disrupts Thanksgiving travel

From CNN's Gregory Wallace

Travelers check in for flights ahead of the Thanksgiving at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago on Wednesday.
Travelers check in for flights ahead of the Thanksgiving at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago on Wednesday. Vincent Alban/Reuters

Weather issues and severe turbulence are disrupting Thanksgiving travel on Wednesday morning, particularly at busy Northeast airports.  

More than 1,000 flights have been delayed, according to the tracking site FlightAware — although fewer than 50 have been canceled.  

Low visibility caused the Federal Aviation Administration to slow flights into New York City's LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports while it changed the runways for arriving and departing flights.   

Flights out of New Jersey's Newark and LaGuardia were experiencing delays because of the high number of planes flying and weather issues.   

The Federal Aviation Administration said the weather could cause more disruptions at the New York, Boston and Philadelphia airports.    

The agency also reported “severe turbulence along the East Coast” that is disrupting its routes to Florida. That is causing North-South congestion in this heavy-volume region, and the FAA warned airlines to factor in disruptions when fueling up planes. The FAA had opened up airspace in this area typically reserved for military flights in anticipation of the heavy Thanksgiving volume.  

At Washington’s Reagan National airport, the Transportation Security Administration expects to hit capacity on Wednesday. The wait time in regular screening lanes hit 25 minutes, nearing the agency’s goal that passengers wait no more than 30 minutes.  

The FAA expects more than 49,600 flights today and the TSA expects to screen more than 2.7 million passengers. 

10:31 a.m. ET, November 22, 2023

Your Black Friday forecast: Chilly and dry for most, but a significant storm targets the Rockies

From CNN Meteorologist Mary Gilbert

A storm will impact travel across the Rockies on Friday.
A storm will impact travel across the Rockies on Friday. CNN

The weather likely won’t be the biggest obstacle for many of those brave enough to venture out in search of great deals this Black Friday, as dry conditions are expected across a majority of the US.

However, one part of the country will have to deal with adverse weather. A strengthening winter storm will bring snow to a wide swath of the Rockies Thursday night and Friday. 

Parts of the Denver area will likely have 1 to 3 inches of snow on the ground by the time the sun rises Friday morning, with more powder expected to fall throughout the day. It’ll be a similar wintry scene in the Salt Lake City area with several inches of snow expected in the foothills overnight Thursday and about an inch across the main metro. 

Snowfall totals will top out at or above a foot from late Thursday thorough Friday in the highest elevations of Wyoming, Colorado and Utah. 

Even though they won't be contending with a winter storm, it’ll still be quite chilly for anyone out and about in the pre-dawn hours in the northern US.

Warm coats will be a necessity with temperatures in the 20s across much of the Northwest, Midwest and Northeast early Friday morning. It’ll be much colder across the north-central US, with temperatures in the teens and even the single digits Friday morning. 

9:09 a.m. ET, November 22, 2023

What you should know about the history of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

From CNN's Todd Leopold

The Snoopy balloon rounds Columbus Circle during the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York in 1987.
The Snoopy balloon rounds Columbus Circle during the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York in 1987. Sara Krulwich/The New York Times/Redux

As far as holiday traditions go, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is about as essential to the cozy November holiday as turkey and stuffing.

While it’s had some interruptions and mishaps along the way, the show has still managed to go on almost every year for nearly a century.

Let’s look back at five historical facts about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade:

1. It was originally a Christmas parade

The original store was about 20 blocks south on Sixth Avenue near 14th Street. Macy’s has been at its current flagship location, at Broadway and 34th Street, since 1902. Continuing expansion made the location what Macy’s called the “world’s largest store,” an entire city block with more than 1 million square feet of retail space.

In celebration, employees organized a Christmas parade in 1924 featuring “floats, bands, animals from the zoo and 10,000 onlookers,” according to a Macy’s history page. It also started way up at 145th Street. The parade concluded with Santa Claus and the unveiling of the store’s Christmas windows. Three years later, the Christmas Parade was renamed the Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Macy’s didn’t invent the practice. Philadelphia has the oldest Thanksgiving Day parade: Its Gimbels Thanksgiving Day Parade, now the 6ABC - Dunkin’ Thanksgiving Day Parade, debuted in 1920.

2. The parade was first broadcast on the radio

You had to use your visual imagination when the first broadcasts of the parade took place in 1932 – that’s because they were on the radio.

The parade was first televised in 1946 in New York and then nationally on NBC the next year.

Read more fascinating facts about the parade

And here are photos from 10 decades of the parade