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A Big Day Ahead

Editor’s Note: Travelocity’s Thanksgiving Task Force is monitoring crowd conditions ahead of the holiday at 10 of the busiest airports in the country: Atlanta-Hartsfield; Chicago O’Hare; Dallas-Fort Worth International; Denver International; Phoenix International; Las Vegas McCarran; Los Angeles International; New York La Guardia; Orlando International; Reagan National. Check back here through Nov. 22 for airport updates from our editors.

It’s a little after 5 a.m. in Texas, and as I prepare for the hectic travel day ahead, I can’t help but think about the sleep I lost last night and the turkey, dressing and mashed potatoes that I’ll stuff myself with tomorrow! But until then, I’ll be fielding calls from our on-site reporters at the nation’s top airports to learn about crowd conditions throughout what is traditionally known as the busiest travel day of the year.

Travelocity’s on-site reporters have already been at the airports for two days, monitoring wait times and surveying travelers about their experiences at the airports. The overall traveler sentiment? So far, so good. Seventy-two percent of travelers are satisfied with their experience getting through security with only 10 percent of travelers reporting that they’re unsatisfied, an indication that the TSA is well staffed and prepared for the busy day ahead.

We expect Thanksgiving crowds to peak today, so travelers should be prepared to wait in longer lines at both security and check-in points. AAA predicts 4.8 million air travelers to take to the skies this holiday season, a 3 percent increase over last year. Check back here throughout the day for updates on crowd conditions.

On a lighter note, our on-site reporters also asked travelers what celebrity couple they would invite over for Thanksgiving dinner. Despite their weekend wedding in Italy, TomKat (not surprisingly) is the most unpopular couple with 10 percent of the vote, while 28 percent of travelers would welcome Jennifer and Vince to their turkey day feast. Other contenders: The Clintons (24 percent); The Bushes (20 percent); and Brangelina (18 percent).

Crowd conditions have remained light to moderate throughout the day with occasional spurts of activity. There are many delays to/from New York City and the rest of the east coast, so travelers are encouraged to check the FAA website for delays before heading to the airport. Plan to arrive at least two hours in advance for domestic flights (three for international), and print your boarding pass at home when possible.

Here’s what’s been happening…

Airport Update: 3 p.m.
Nothing new to report. Travelers should continue to watch for delays to the north east and check www.faa.gov for more details.

Airport Update: 1 p.m. CT


Atlanta-Hartsfield (ATL)

Passengers are getting through security lines in less than 10 minutes. Check-in lines in the North Terminal are short (less than 5 minutes). There is occasional congestion in the South Terminal (Delta) with lines up to 20 minutes long at times. Traffic in North Terminal is picking up with lines reaching 20 minutes at some carriers. Traffic at drop-off points at each of the terminals is heavy. Both economy lots are closed. Travelers are encouraged to use off-site parking and take a shuttle to the terminal if possible.

Chicago O’Hare (ORD)

The occasional influx of travelers causes waits to reach 15 minutes at times, but both security and check-in are moving quickly for the most part. Economy lots are filling up, and there’s a bit of traffic congestion around the airport.

Dallas-Fort Worth International (DFW)

Security and check-in lines are less than 10 minutes throughout the airport.

Denver International (DEN)

Security and ticket lines are no more than 10 minutes. The East surface lot and Pike’s Peak are closed.

Las Vegas McCarran (LAS)
Parking is filling up. People should expect traffic delays once inside the airport, so allow extra time to drop-off or pick-up passengers.

Los Angeles International (LAX)
Security and check-in lines rarely reach 15 minutes. Parking is filling up quickly. People picking up passengers are encouraged to use the cell phone lot. Police out in force writing tickets for traffic and parking violations.

New York La Guardia (LGA)
Both check-in and security lines throughout the airport have been less than 10 minutes this morning. Traffic into the airport is light, but travelers should expecting outgoing traffic from Manhattan to pick-up throughout the day. All arrival and departures are delayed. Check www.faa.gov for details.

Orlando International (MCO)

Security and check-in lines are less than 5 minutes with the exception of Air Tran check-in, which has consistently had 15 minute waits. Air Tran passengers with carry-on luggage only can use kiosks – all other passengers must wait in line. Passengers should expect waits up to one hour at Virgin Atlantic for late afternoon/evening flights.

Reagan National (DCA)

Delays to/from the souteast. Check www.faa.gov for more details. Lines at security and check-in are less than five minutes. TSA officials at DCA say that the longest security waits yesterday only reached 13 minutes, but expect longer lines today. Traffic tends to back up in Terminal A because of passengers being dropped off, but drivers can bypass the first drop-off point to avoid the crowd. Check www.mwaa.com for real-time parking updates.

Phoenix Sky Harbor (PHX)

Security and check-in lines at PHX are less than 5 minutes. The West Economy lot is filling up and airport staff expects it to close at some point within the next few hours. Traffic is slightly heavy outside of Terminal 4.

Airport Update: 10 a.m. CT


Atlanta-Hartsfield (ATL)

Passengers are getting through security lines in less than 10 minutes. Check-in lines in the North Terminal are short (less than 5 minutes). There was a bit of congestion in the South Terminal (Delta) this morning with lines up to 20 minutes long, but those lines are now less than 10 minutes. Traffic at drop-off points at each of the terminals is heavy. Both economy lots are closed. Travelers are encouraged to use off-site parking and take a shuttle to the terminal if possible.

Chicago O’Hare (ORD)

Security lines at Terminal 3 are up to 20 minutes, but all other lines are less than five minutes. Check-in at Terminal 3 is approximately 15 minutes with all other check-in lines less than five minutes. Economy lots are filling up, and there’s a bit of traffic congestion around the airport.

Dallas-Fort Worth International (DFW)

Security and check-in lines are less than 10 minutes throughout the airport. Holiday helpers are passing out donuts in Terminal D. Radio City Rockets are on hand to greet soldiers arriving home from Iraq in Terminal B.

Denver International (DEN)

Security lines this morning were up to 15 minutes long but has since gone down to 5-8 minutes. No lines or delays elsewhere. The East surface lot and Pike’s Peak are closed.

Las Vegas McCarran (LAS)
Check-in and security lines at Southwest are both approximately 15 minutes but all other lines are 5-10 minutes. Parking is filling up quickly.

Los Angeles International (LAX)
Check-in and security lines are less than 10 minutes throughout the airport with the exception of Southwest and Delta, which are facing 10-15 minute waits.

New York La Guardia (LGA)
Both check-in and security lines throughout the airport have been less than 10 minutes this morning. Traffic into the airport is light, but travelers should expecting outgoing traffic from Manhattan to pick-up throughout the day. Winds are also picking up as well, so check weather reports and FAA for any delays.

Orlando International (MCO)

Security and check-in lines are less than 5 minutes with the exception of Air Tran check-in, which has consistently had 15 minute waits. Air Tran passengers with carry-on luggage only can use kiosks – all other passengers must wait in line.

Reagan National (DCA)

Lines at security and check-in are less than five minutes. TSA officials at DCA say that the longest security waits yesterday only reached 13 minutes, but expect longer lines today. Traffic tends to back up in Terminal A because of passengers being dropped off, but drivers can bypass the first drop-off point to avoid the crowd. Check www.mwaa.com for real-time parking updates.

Phoenix Sky Harbor (PHX)

Security and check-in lines at PHX are less than 5 minutes. The West Economy lot is filling up and airport staff expects it to close at some point within the next few hours.

Airport Update: 9 a.m. CT


Atlanta-Hartsfield (ATL)

Passengers are getting through security lines in less than 10 minutes. Check-in lines in the North Terminal are short (less than 5 minutes). There was a bit of congestion in the South Terminal (Delta) this morning with lines up to 20 minutes long, but those lines are now less than 10 minutes. Traffic at drop-off points at each of the terminals is heavy. Both economy lots are closed. Travelers are encouraged to use off-site parking and take a shuttle to the terminal if possible.

Chicago O’Hare (ORD)

Security lines at Terminal 3 are up to 20 minutes, but all other lines are less than five minutes. Check-in at Terminal 3 is approximately 15 minutes with all other check-in lines less than five minutes. Economy lots are filling up, and there’s a bit of traffic congestion around the airport.

Dallas-Fort Worth International (DFW)

Security and check-in lines are less than 10 minutes throughout the airport. Holiday helpers are passing out donuts in Terminal D. Radio City Rockets are on hand to greet soldiers arriving home from Iraq in Terminal B.

Denver International (DEN)

Security lines this morning were up to 15 minutes long but has since gone down to 5-8 minutes. No lines or delays elsewhere. The East surface lot and Pike’s Peak are closed.

New York La Guardia (LGA)

Both check-in and security lines throughout the airport have been less than 10 minutes this morning. Traffic into the airport is light, but travelers should expecting outgoing traffic from Manhattan to pick-up throughout the day. Winds are also picking up as well, so check weather reports and FAA for any delays.

Orlando International (MCO)

Security and check-in lines are less than 5 minutes with the exception of Air Tran check-in, which has consistently had 15 minute waits. Air Tran passengers with carry-on luggage only can use kiosks – all other passengers must wait in line.

Reagan National (DCA)

Lines at security and check-in are less than five minutes. TSA officials at DCA say that the longest security waits yesterday only reached 13 minutes, but expect longer lines today. Traffic tends to back up in Terminal A because of passengers being dropped off, but drivers can bypass the first drop-off point to avoid the crowd. Check www.mwaa.com for real-time parking updates.

Phoenix Sky Harbor (PHX)

Security and check-in lines at PHX are less than 5 minutes. The West Economy lot is filling up and airport staff expects it to close at some point within the next few hours.

Jennifer

My name: Jennifer Gaines, but my friends call me Gaines, Jenni-Dallas or just plain Jenn.

(Find me on Twitter @jenngaines)

Travel ambitions: It's my mission to visit each of the New 7 Wonders and to step foot on every continent before my next milestone birthday.

Greatest travel lesson learned: Find the local hangouts to experience the real, true culture of a place. During a trip to Europe, my friends and I spent several days with a French family in the small town of Vichy. We had a private party in their family-run creperie, feasting on cheese-stuffed crepes and sampling wine that we picked up in the Bordeaux region a few days earlier. Their English wasn’t much better than my French, which is limited to a few well-known phrases from Moulin Rouge and the question: Parlez-vous anglais? (I'm proud to say that I can spout this question off in several different languages, and luckily most Europeans do indeed speak English!) After a few bottles of wine, the language barrier was hardly noticeable (slurring actually sounds the same in French!), and we managed to swap stories about life in other places. What a slice of local flavor!

My most beloved place in the whole world is: My grandparents place in Texas. It’s a 10-acre oasis in between two sprawling cities: Dallas and Fort Worth. A creek runs through their enormous backyard, where Granddad built a deck over the water. The entire place is shrouded with all types of trees (mainly pecan), blocking the Texas sun in the summer. Dusk is the best time to sit on the deck, drink a glass of ice tea and watch baby raccoons from the spring litter surround their back porch as Gram feeds them bread (no lie!). There will be dozens of raccoons eating on any given night. In the fall, my family gathers in the courtyard in front of their house for an annual “weenie roast.” Granddad lights the bonfire, and we roast dogs and s'mores. Yes, y’all, we’re from Texas!

Favorite way to get around: Well, I’m not much of a driver. I get lost easily and my tires have never come across a curb they didn’t want to get to know a little better. But, I do enjoy cruising around and listening to music. That said, I much rather explore a place by foot (with my iPod in tow) for a more intimate encounter.

View that took my breath away: Coming from Texas (where the view is wide but there’s not much to see), scenes from my new home of San Francisco never fail to amaze me. The city is a pedestrian’s dream, but don’t forget to turn around and look behind you as you meander through its neighborhoods. You won’t realize it, but you’ll be at the tip-top of a hill and the ocean will suddenly seem to be at eye level. Take a drive through the Presidio and over the Golden Gate Bridge where even more stunning views await!

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