RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Even a gray and misty Tuesday afternoon, and the annoyance of a flat tire, didn't dim Ron Bassilian's enthusiasm during his family's trip to the Tar Heel state.
"It's lovely. The people are amazing, and not to mention it's gorgeous out here," Bassilian said.
His family is visiting friends in Raleigh, Wilmington and Charlotte this week, after flying in from Los Angeles.
"Nothing too bad so far (traffic-wise). As a matter of fact, once the weekend ended, the hotel was a lot less crowded so I expect maybe we'll get more people starting Wednesday/Thursday. But right now, it's pretty quiet," Bassilian said.
Nationally, AAA anticipates more than 55 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home during the Thanksgiving holiday period, the highest amount since the pandemic. In North Carolina, AAA Carolinas projects 1.6 million people will travel that distance, an amount equal to nearly 15% of the state's population.
"We expect over 1.4 million of those will be doing so by vehicle. If you do the math, that's 18,000 more cars on the road than last year," said Tiffany Wright, Director of Public Affairs for AAA Carolinas.
Peak travel times for drivers are between 2 - 6 p.m., with Wright suggesting starting trips early in the morning or evening to avoid traffic.
"If you're talking about Wednesday road travel, just think about this: It's going to take you 80% longer than it would normally take to reach your destination. Add weather to that, it can take even longer," Wright explained.
Wednesday is expected to be the busiest travel day of the year.
"The sweet spot is Thanksgiving Day. If your travel plans allow you to leave Thanksgiving Day, that's when you're going to see the least amount of congestions," Wright said.
Following Thanksgiving, Sunday is likely to be the busiest day to return home, so planning a trip back either Saturday or Monday could alleviate those concerns. She suggested travelers budget extra time, review their emergency kits, and if possible, have their car inspected prior to taking a trip.
"There's a few things you can do right in your driveway or garage. You want to make sure you're checking your tires, making sure they're properly inflated. You want to make sure you're checking your fluid levels. Look at that battery (and) look for any corrosion around your battery. Make sure to check those windshield wiper blades. We know that weather's going to be an issue, most people don't know that you need to replace their blades until they have to use them and they realize they're not working," said Wright.
At Union Station in downtown Raleigh, Amtrak was anticipating a surge in passengers throughout the week. An Amtrak official tells ABC11 that ridership at the station was up nearly 30% in the 2023 fiscal year compared to the 2022 fiscal year. Last Thanksgiving, there were 8,630 passengers who traveled through the station.
For those traveling by train, you're encouraged to purchase your ticket online in advance, rather than wait to do so in-person. There is a small parking area in front of Union Station, as well as a drop-off area right near the entrance.
At RDU, as of 4:45 Tuesday afternoon, FlightAware reported there were 65 delayed flights, and one cancellation.