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Travelers leaving town early ahead of Thanksgiving rush and Tuesday's rain

Tips to beat the Thanksgiving travel rush
Tips to beat the Thanksgiving travel rush 03:13

NEWARK, N.J. -- Thanksgiving is still days away, but many people are already getting a head start and getting out of town early to celebrate the holiday. 

Tuesday and Wednesday are expected to be the worst times to travel by car or by plane, according to AAA and TSA. A forecasted storm could make the busiest holiday travel week even worse.   

The number of Thanksgiving travelers is expected to be more than 55 million. That's the largest amount since 2000, when AAA started crunching the numbers. Whether you are traveling by air or land, travel experts have tips to make sure you arrive at your destination wearing a smile. 

The most wonderful time of the year is also the busiest time for travel. According to AAA, that forecast of more than 55 million Americans traveling 50 miles or more is up 2.3% from last year. The vast majority of holiday travelers hit the road, like the Robinson family, who were at the Vince Lombardi Rest Stop after driving from New Hampshire. 

"We're going to a far away place," 6-year-old Lochlan Robinson said. 

"Technically the place we're going to is Virginia Beach," 9-year-old Britton-Siobhan Robinson said. 

"We know about the storm. We're trying to beat it, " Jay Robinson said. 

AAA Northeast's Robert Sinclair, Jr. urges drivers to make sure their vehicle is ready for your road trip.   

"We're anticipating upwards of 320,000 breakdowns nationwide from Wednesday to Sunday. Flat tires, dead batteries - top two items we get calls for. So give those things attention before you hit the road," Sinclair said. 

He adds drivers should change fluids in the car, and throw on a new pair of blades to wipe away the rain. 

"The TSA expects it will be the busiest travel season that they have ever seen," Skift Editor-in-Chief Sarah Kopit said. 

Kopit urges fliers come prepared, and early. They'll be surrounded by 4.7 million fellow fliers. That's the most in 18 years, according to AAA. 

"The best thing fliers can do is give themselves time," Kopit said. 

That's exactly what a traveler named Sophia opted to do this year as she headed home to Portland, Oregon. 

"I had some crazy travel experiences last Thanksgiving, so I felt like it might be a good idea to come early this time," Sophia said. "I almost missed my flight... it was traumatizing." 

Kopit offered more tips: 

  • Download your carrier's app. You'll have all needed information in one place. 
  • Consider travel insurance, weighing the pros and cons. Most buy it when booking, but in some cases, you can purchase it up to the day before your trip. 
  • Travel light, with just a carry-on.

Crystal and Victoria Jung took the minimalist approach for the first time. 

"She only has one bag, because we don't want to have to pick up her luggage. It was super smart because we didn't have to wait," Crystal said. 

If you are driving, INRIX said Wednesday will be the busiest day on the roads. If you have to drive Wednesday, INRIX suggests leave in the morning or after 6 p.m. However, with the approaching storm expected to impact us through Wednesday morning, perhaps after 6 p.m. is your best bet.  

Travelers relieved to beat the holiday rush at Newark Airport 03:10

Travelers at Newark Liberty International Airport told CBS New York's John Dias they're confident with their decision to fly out Monday to avoid the craziness of the coming days, as well as the inclement weather. They were thankful for the short lines as they beat the rush.

One New Jersey family flying to West Palm Beach said they planned their trip last year. 

"It was easier to get out, and we decided to come home on Black Friday late at night, because we did hear about the travel situation toward the weekend," Sparta resident Marilyn Muse told Dias. 

Others said they just got lucky, not realizing it will get bad in the days ahead.

"It's an unexpected trip actually, I just booked my flight yesterday," traveler Pinky Nelson said. 

"It's just luck, I guess, because we didn't know about that, that it will be the busiest day," said Daria Kriaum, of Brooklyn. 

Dias spoke with the directors of United Airlines, who said they have been preparing for the busy holiday period for months, and they are confident they're fully staffed to handle the surge -- though Mother Nature could slow things down.

"When we are loading bags and moving airplanes around, if there's reduced visibility could slow us down a little bit. But from a customer standpoint, don't expect any disruption," United Airlines Managing Director of Operations at Newark John Weigand told Dias.

TSA officials anticipate it will take 30 minutes to screen standard passengers, and 10 minutes for pre-check travelers. Officials with United say it's not a bad idea to arrive early.

"It's always good to err on the side of caution. So if you're feeling a little bit stressed about security, I would say give yourself some extra time," United Airlines Managing Director of Customer Service Cyrus Sarkari said.

Stick with our First Alert Weather team for the latest forecast as the storm approaches. 

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