HIGHFILL, Ark (KNWA/KFTA) — Travel over the holiday season is projected to fall just short of pre-pandemic travel levels, according to AAA.

AAA spokesperson, Nick Chabarria, said 54.6 million people are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home this Thanksgiving. That’s a 1.5% increase from 2021 and around 2% less than the travel numbers in 2019.

Chabarria attributes this to people getting more comfortable with traveling.

“As time goes on people are more comfortable with getting farther out, traveling farther away from home. We expect to see travel continue to increase, and that was really the case throughout 2022,” said Chabarria.

Something good for people traveling to their Thanksgiving destination by car, gas prices are going down. According to AAA, Arkansas gas has hit a two-month low. The association attributes the decrease to the global cost of crude oil being at a lower price range for weeks.

Arkansas has the fourth lowest gas prices in the state. Chabarria said surrounding states also have low gas prices.

“If you’re heading into Kentucky, it’s a little bit higher, or into Kansas, but any of the surrounding states that you may be traveling to, you’re in good shape,” said Chabarria.

Air travel is projected to be up this holiday season as well- nearly 8% from 2021. That’s an increase of more than 330,000 travelers.

While gas prices are low this holiday season, plane ticket prices may be higher. According to Alex English, the Public Affairs Manager at XNA, inflation and fuel prices have brought an increase in ticket prices lately. Plus, with more people traveling, it might be harder to find the ticket you want.

“Planes are filling up, especially around the holidays. So, it might be a little bit more difficult to get into a flight and find a price point that is right for you. So, try to plan ahead,” said English.

A pair of women met on a flight into XNA Thursday, a week from Thanksgiving, and mentioned their tickets were higher than normal.

Malynda Lilly flew in from Texas to sell Color Street nails at the Northwest Arkansas Boutique show.

“I did this show last year, and the ticket prices more than doubled for me, and I was like, this would really hurt my profit to pay double the ticket price, so I ended up using points this year,” said Lilly.

Normally, Lilly would use around 25,000, but she used around 37,000 points.

It’s a similar story for Davene Taylor. She traveled into XNA from California to see her two sons and nine grandchildren. She makes the trip to see her family fairly regularly and said her normal ticket had gotten more expensive.

“The years before, I’ve usually been able to fly here for a little under $300, and this time, it was just a few dollars under $500. So, it’s a big difference,” said Taylor.

She said the prices make it harder to get away as often and to see her kids.

For people who still haven’t booked a ticket to see family or friends for Christmas, time may be running out. English said the best thing to do to avoid high prices and to get the tickets you want, is to book early.

“We always recommend books six to eight weeks out if you can, just because it does help ameliorate or lessen the cost of each ticket,” said English.

If you’ve already bought your airline ticket for Thanksgiving, with more people traveling, English has tips for you to keep in mind.

“I do recommend getting to the airport, especially during holiday travel, around two hours before your flight takes off, just to make sure that you have enough time. Especially if you have a family with you,” said English.

To speed up the process during the TSA checkpoint, make sure you wear shoes easy to slip off and make sure you don’t have anything metal on you that would set the alarms off when you go through the metal detector.

There may also be flight delays and cancelations with more air traffic. English recommends downloading your airline apps to keep track of all the latest updates.

If you’re driving this Thanksgiving, AAA recommends traveling before 7:00 a.m. or after 8:00 p.m. In the week before your holiday road trip, make sure your vehicle is ready for the ride. Especially during the colder months, you should make sure your battery and tires are good to go.

If you do happen to have issues, Chabarria said safety is a priority.

“Make sure you’re in a safe location. If your vehicle still drivable, get it off to the shoulder, turn your hazards on. Generally speaking, we recommend folks stay inside their vehicle while they’re waiting for assistance,” said Chabarria.

More accidents and vehicle breakdowns happen over holiday periods, so Chabarria recommends keeping an extra eye out on the roadways and driving extra careful.