Denver International Airport is expecting 1.15 million passengers at its terminals between today and Monday.
That’s approximately 3 percent more people than last year, the airport said. Sunday is expected to be the busiest of the week, with an estimated 192,634 passengers.
But that’s nothing if you frequented the airport this past summer. While Sunday will be the airport’s 36th-busiest day in airport history, the other 35 all occurred this summer, said Heath Montgomery, a DIA spokesman.
“Yes that’s a common misconception that comes up every year,” Montgomery said. “The summer is far, far busier.”
Airport travel this week may be less hectic this week than during the summer, but Thanksgiving car travel is expected to be worse than last year. AAA Colorado projects this week will be the busiest since 2005, with 865,000 Coloradans traveling more than 50 miles from home.
The organization attributes the need to hit the road to Colorado’s “rising incomes and higher consumer confidence,” spokesman Skyler McKinley said. “That’s led to a record travel year, and the Thanksgiving holiday travel period will be the busiest of the year to date.”
Allow for extra time is the agency’s advice.
Along with heavier traffic, AAA says this also will be the costliest travel since 2014, with gas prices averaging $2.54 a gallon, or 47 cents more than last year.
Of course, if you expect to spend a wad on gas and plan on interstate travel, the GasBuddy smartphone app says to check how gas prices can change dramatically when crossing state lines. For example, buying gas in Needles, Calif., can set a driver back $25 a tank after paying $1.70 more per gallon instead of much less in nearby Mohave Valley, Ariz., according to the company. On Tuesday, the cheapest gas in Needles was $3.79 while Mohave Valley came in at $2.28.
According to Google, which analyzed user data from past holiday travel, the best time to leave for a Thanksgiving road trip is 3 a.m. Wednesday. But the best time to leave for an event on Thanksgiving is 6 a.m. that day.
The worst time to leave for a road trip? The day before Thanksgiving at 3 p.m.
And if you’re planning on driving back to Denver, aim for at 4 a.m. Friday. And try to avoid the worst congestion that is expected at 3 p.m. Saturday, says Google.
DIA offered these tips for a more expeditious experience:
- Confirm your flight online at home — or confirm a friend’s before heading to the airport.
- If you’re parking your car, check the available space by calling 303-DIA-PARK, option 1.
- For a guaranteed and close spot, reserve a space for an additional $4 a day at diareservedparking.com.
- If your car gets stuck, DIA offers free jump starts, tire inflation and car key retrieval. Just call 303-342-4545.
- If arriving by the RTD A-Line, check your bag and print a boarding pass at the DEN station train platform.
- At the cellphone waiting lot at 7684 N. Wenatchee St., there’s free Wi-Fi.
- Leave gifts unwrapped — TSA may need to open them.
- DIA updates travel alerts at its Twitter account, @DENAirport, and Facebook page at facebook.com/denverinternationalairport.
- There’s a special customer-service line for out-of-town travelers at 1-800-AIR-2-DEN.
- And if you have hours to waste, check out the free ice-skating rink, which opens Friday at the DEN plaza on level 5 between the Jeppesen Terminal and Westin Denver International Airport.