Thanksgiving travelers pack airports, roads

HOUSTON - Travelers flying out of Houston's two airports should pack their patience and allow for extra time because the day before Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel days of the year.

But a new feature on the Houston Airport System's website may make the trip a little easier. lets passengers know wait times for security checkpoints at both George Bush Intercontinental (IAH) and William P. Hobby (HOU) Airports. Green means a 10 minute wait or less. Yellow refers to a 10 to 15 minute wait. Red is more than a 15 minute wait.

Officials said 1.3 million travelers will fly into or out of Hobby and Bush Intercontinental airports over the Thanksgiving holiday period. Since IAH is United Airlines' largest hub, it will have 600 flights.

Across the country, 24 million people will board a plane this week.

"Sunday, we're going to see a lot of inbound traffic coming back, so that's also going to be another very busy day," said Sarah Schimmer with AAA Texas/new Mexico.

Airport officials suggest passengers arrive early on peak days to avoid missing a flight.

"We're hear early just to make sure we get up to Chicago. (We're about) 2 and a half hours early. That's early for me. Normally, I get here 15 minutes before the flight," traveler Hillary Miller said.

Those picking up a loved one should head to passenger pick-up lots, denoted by purple signs, to await a call that the traveler is ready to meet outside the arrival terminal, authorities said.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) provided the following tips to help passengers get through the checkpoints.

  • The 3-1-1 policy for liquids is still in effect
  • Children under the age of 12 can keep their shoes on
  • Do not wrap gifts
  • Pies and cakes are permitted through the checkpoint, but may require further inspection
  • Snow globes that appear to contain less than 3.4 oz will be permitted in your carry-on
  • Additional questions can be answered by calling the TSA Cares Helpline at 855-787-2227

For more travel tips, visit

The Houston Airport System will also tweet additional holiday tips. Follow them @iah and @HobbyAirport on Twitter.

Travelers take to roads

Texas roadways will also be crowded. AAA estimates that 3 million Texans will be on the roads during the Thanksgiving holiday.

"We're seeing a 1.6 percent increase in total travel from 2011 to 2012. Today is the busiest day for travel. It doesn't matter what mode of transportation -- car, air, train, bus or cruise ship. Everyone is leaving today," said Schimmer. "3.3 million Texans will be traveling with 3 million on the road. About 90 percent of all travelers are on the road. About 206,000 Texans will be flying today. About 77,000 will be taking a train, bus or cruise ship, so lots of people traveling today."

Many drivers said the were frustrated by how many traffic jams there were.

"It was horrible," said Thelma Adams, who drove to Houston from Beaumont. "It was bumper to bumper as I came into Houston.

Schimmer said those kinds of conditions were normal around the area on Wednesday.

"It's been rush-hour traffic conditions most of the day today and will be into the evening," she said. "If you're not used to driving in these conditions, you want to try to give yourself as much time as possible. Know your destination, know where you're going."

Lower prices at the pump may also be helping fuel the number of people on the roads.

AAA on Tuesday reported the average price at the pump across Texas was $3.16 per gallon. Nationwide gasoline prices are down 3 cents to settle at $3.41 per gallon.

The association survey found Beaumont has the cheapest gasoline at $3.06 per gallon. Drivers in El Paso face the highest gasoline prices this week at an average $3.30 per gallon.

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