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Don't wrap presents if you're flying, and other travel advice this holiday

Ann Thompson
If you plan to pick up passengers, wait in the cell lot and wait for them to call or text from baggage claim, says CVG Spokesperson Mindy Kershner.

Friday, Dec. 23 and the Mondays of Dec. 26 and Jan. 2 are expected to be the busiest travel days in the next few weeks. Here's how to get around with ease.

Crowded interstates and busy airports are just part of getting where you're going this holiday season. AAA expects travel will be back to pre-pandemic levels next year, and we’re pretty close this year.

"Nearly 113 million people around the country will be traveling," says AAA's Kara Hitchens, public affairs manager. "Here in Ohio, 4.7 million will be traveling."

The busiest travel days are expected to be Dec. 23, Dec. 26 and Jan. 2.

The Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) says it's already at pre-pandemic levels. Spokesperson Mindy Kershner says 400,000 people will come in and out of the airport doors over the next two weeks.

However, most people will drive, and the fact that gas prices are coming down, Hitchens says, is a gift. Still, the possibility of snow has the potential to throw a wrench in any travel plans. She suggestslooking at the weather as you head into the weekend and also checking for any potential construction.

Early is better

"Arrive at the airport two hours before your scheduled flight departure," Kershner says. "I know we say that a lot, but even more so this time of year. You don't want to risk missing your flight and feel too rushed."

She suggests checking in online at home and get familiar with TSA guidelines.

One important guideline this holiday is not to wrap any presents you are taking in your checked luggage or carry-on. The TSA says it may have to unwrap them if they are suspicious.

On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. at CVG, the USO and the Honor Flight will wrap your presents for free on the secure side of the airport.

Santa and Mrs. Claus will be visiting Thursday from 1 p.m.-5 p.m. at the terminal. There is also a lit menorah on the baggage claim level.

Where are people going?

"Lots of warm destinations," says Kershner. "We have all those flights to Florida. So, Orlando, Tampa, Miami/Ft. Lauderdale."

Javier Espinoza was taking his family to Mexico Monday. "We scheduled a trip to Cancún about three years ago. Due to the pandemic, we didn’t get to travel, but now with the travel, we’re going to go have some margaritas," he laughs.

What could make this holiday travel season more challenging than most is people will be driving and flying for an extended period. "We expect people are going to be traveling the whole time," Hitchens says. "So, some people are going to get away for Christmas, some people are going to get away for New Year's and some people are going to get away for both."

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.