America travels for Thanksgiving

By Elise Hammond, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 5:57 p.m. ET, November 24, 2021
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9:46 a.m. ET, November 24, 2021

Thanksgiving gas prices are the highest since 2012

From CNN’s Matt Egan

A customer pumps gas into her vehicle at a gas station on November 22, 2021 in Miami, Florida.
A customer pumps gas into her vehicle at a gas station on November 22, 2021 in Miami, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Drivers hitting the road this Thanksgiving will be greeted by the highest prices at the pump in nearly a decade. 

The average prices consumers paid for regular gasoline stood at $3.40 a gallon on Monday, according to a new report from the government. That’s the highest price on the Monday before Thanksgiving since 2012, the US Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday. 

This year’s pre-Thanksgiving gas price is 62% above the same point last year, although far fewer Americans were traveling then because of Covid concerns. More than 48 million people are expected to travel by road for Thanksgiving this year, 8% higher than a year ago, according to AAA

Still, gas prices are 32% higher than at the same point in 2019, before the eruption of the pandemic. 

Gas prices spiked in October by $1.13 a gallon, the biggest year-over-year increase since the EIA started collecting these numbers in 1990. 

All of this explains why President Biden launched an international intervention into energy markets on Tuesday. Biden pledged to release 50 million barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the largest such release in US history, and other nations including China, Japan and India committed to releasing reserves as well. 

Rumors of the SPR release have already helped to cool off gas prices, which have leveled out over the past week or so. However, analysts are skeptical the intervention will live up to the hype by dramatically lowering gas prices. Even Biden conceded it won’t solve the problem of high gas prices overnight.  

Drivers on the West Coast face the highest gas prices, averaging about $4.19 a gallon, according to the EIA. The cheapest retail prices are found along the Gulf Coast, where the average stands just above $3 a gallon. 

9:21 a.m. ET, November 24, 2021

If you're traveling with someone who's not vaccinated, here are some Covid-19 health considerations

From CNN's Marnie Hunter and Pete Muntean

Travelers walk through the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport on November 21, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. 
Travelers walk through the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport on November 21, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images)

While millions of Americans are now vaccinated against Covid-19, the pandemic isn't over. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends delaying travel until you are fully vaccinated.

For those traveling with unvaccinated people, the agency suggests safer options such as road trips with few stops and direct flights.

Traveling with children who are unvaccinated will be a consideration for many families.

"This risk is not so much the travel itself but what you do at the destination," said Dr. Leana Wen, a CNN medical analyst, emergency physician and professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.

Trips involving visits to crowded indoor attractions and restaurants are higher risk.

"Travel itself can be made very safe, especially if the younger children are able to mask. If they're unable to mask, that is a major barrier," said Wen, who is also author of a new book, "Lifelines: A Doctor's Journey in the Fight for Public Health."

If she were traveling only with her 4-year-old son, who is used to masking at preschool, Wen said she would feel very comfortable taking him on a short flight. However, she would not travel on a plane or train with her daughter who is 1 1/2, because she can't consistently mask.

People should be wearing a high-quality mask — N95, KN95 or KF94 — anytime they're in crowded indoor settings with people of unknown vaccination status, she said.

8:35 a.m. ET, November 24, 2021

Holiday travelers likely to see mostly "tranquil" weather across the US

From CNN Meteorologist Judson Jones

About two-thirds of the country should be truly thankful for the weather this holiday season as Thanksgiving travel picks back up to pre-pandemic levels.

"A relatively tranquil stretch of weather persists in the final days leading up to Thanksgiving," said the Weather Prediction Center (WPC).

It only takes a run-of-the mill rain shower or wind gust to push travel delays from a couple of minutes to hours the day before Thanksgiving. The good news is, we don't expect much weather to impact the country Wednesday. Thursday looks like more of a soaker for some and those pesky winds and cold air return to the Northeast on Friday into Saturday.

No matter what, some delays will mount on the roadways and in airports, just due to the extra volume.

"With Thanksgiving just a couple days away, Mother Nature is providing a suitable weather pattern for travelers across the vast majority of the US mainland through Wednesday night," the WPC said Tuesday.

In the Northeast, winds have been the story the week leading up to Thanksgiving. The good news is those should subside in the Northeast on Wednesday.

Some wind gusts from Dallas to Chicago could cause some issues, but delays shouldn't be major. Winds in some areas could gust up to 40 mph.

In Southern California, the Santa Ana winds begin to pick up through the day Wednesday. Winds are likely to gust from 30 to 60 mph. This could prove to add some delays at airports but will become more problematic on Thanksgiving.

The Intermountain West could see some snow showers Wednesday, making the perfect arrival for anyone hitting the ski slopes for Thanksgiving. Right now, there is a 20% chance that this snow makes it down into Denver.

In the Northwest, residents will get a slight break Wednesday from the onslaught of Pacific storms they have endured over the last few weeks.

But rain will be in the picture Wednesday evening. This next storm system will be a bit warmer, increasing the flood threat in the river valley below.

Track the weather here.

8:48 a.m. ET, November 24, 2021

Hitting the road today? Here are some AAA tips for driving.

From CNN's Marnie Hunter and Pete Muntean

Traffic travels along I-395 on November 24, 2021 in Washington, DC. on November 24, 2021.
Traffic travels along I-395 on November 24, 2021 in Washington, DC. on November 24, 2021. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

The Covid-19 pandemic kept many Americans home on Thanksgiving 2020, with many opting for virtual gatherings over the real thing.

But with so many people vaccinated this year, AAA spokesperson Andrew Gross is expecting roads to feel like a typical Thanksgiving: "Crowded. Busy."

"If you leave Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving and you live near a big metropolitan area, you're going to be sitting in that old-fashioned traffic again," Gross said.

Average gas prices are about $1.30 higher than last year. "But as we've always discovered, no matter how much gasoline prices are, people are still going to take that trip. They'll just budget along the way," Gross said.

Here are some AAA tips for driving:

  • Make sure your vehicle is ready. AAA suggests getting key components like the battery, fuel system, tires, brakes and fluid levels checked
  • Mornings over the holiday weekend are generally better times to drive. Wednesday's best time is after 9 p.m., according to transportation analytics firm INRIX. Wednesday's worst time is between noon and 8 p.m.
8:56 a.m. ET, November 24, 2021

Thanksgiving travel will look more like 2019 than 2020 this year

From CNN's Marnie Hunter and Pete Muntean

Travelers move to a security check point at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Va., Monday, Nov. 22, 2021.
Travelers move to a security check point at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Va., Monday, Nov. 22, 2021. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Traveling for Thanksgiving this year is going to look way more like 2019 than our first pandemic holiday season: crowded.

On Friday, the Transportation Security Administration screened more air travelers in a single day than on any day since the start of the pandemic.

"JUST IN: @TSA officers screened 2,242,956 people at airport security checkpoints nationwide yesterday, Friday, Nov. 19. It's the highest checkpoint volume since passenger volume tanked in early 2020 as a result of the pandemic," TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein tweeted Saturday. "The Thanksgiving travel period has begun! #MaskUp"

US travel organization AAA predicts Thanksgiving travel overall will rebound to near pre-pandemic levels, with 53.4 million Americans expected to travel for the holiday — a 13% increase from last year.

That brings the total travel volume to just 5% below AAA's 2019 figure. And air travel is expected to be up 80% from last year, bringing it to just 9% below 2019. About 4.2 million travelers are expected to fly this year.