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Westbound traffic, right, slows as eastbound traffic, though heavy, flows consistently on the left during rush hour, Wednesday, December 21, 2016, on Interstate 10 near the Nairn Drive overpass in Baton Rouge, La.

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK

An improving economy is expected to boost travel over Thanksgiving, so people who are heading out of town for the holiday need to be aware.

According to AAA, 50.9 million people are expected to journey more than 50 miles from their home over the holiday, a 3.3 percent increase over travel volumes in 2016. That will make this the biggest year for Thanksgiving travel since 2005, said Don Redman, a spokesman for AAA Louisiana.

Similar increases in travelers are forecast in the AAA region that includes Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Redman said 4.7 million people in those states are expected to drive over the holiday.

The travel gains are happening even though fuel prices have been on the rise. According to AAA in metro Baton Rouge Tuesday, the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas was $2.31, an increase of nearly 2 cents over the average a week ago, 12 cents over the average a month ago and 37 cents over the average a year ago.

“There’s been an unexpected demand, that’s what caused prices to go up,” Redman said. “But we do still expect gas prices to go down after the holiday.”

In order to have a pleasant trip, drivers should do their homework. Look at the weather forecast for the areas you are driving through, make sure your vehicle is in proper shape for a long trip and check out websites such as the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development’s 511la.org, which tracks road construction projects.

Drivers should also look at avoiding traveling during peak times, such as Wednesday afternoon-evening, Redman said. “The Baton Rouge area has terrible traffic anyway, so the roads are going to be a parking lot at those times,” he said. “If you can leave earlier or delay, that would be best. Some of the best times for travel are Thanksgiving day.”

Local airports are also expected to see an increase in passengers.

Baton Rouge Metro Airport said there is high travel demand over the holiday. As of Monday morning, flights out of the airport were at “80 plus percent capacity,” said Jim Caldwell, an airport spokesman. “We expect the number of passengers will be higher than that because of some last-minute bookings,” he said.

Caldwell said the seating capacity at Baton Rouge Metro has increased over the past year; American Airlines has upgraded its local service to nearly all regional jets. Delta has serviced Baton Rouge with all regional jets for a while, while about half of the United flights are larger jets. This has allowed more people to fly out of Baton Rouge, even though the airlines have not added flights.

Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans has seen passenger counts increase by 5 to 7 percent each month this year. Airport officials said that trend should continue over Thanksgiving.

Passengers should make a point to sign up for alerts from the airlines they are traveling on, so they can keep abreast of any changes in flight status.

Follow Timothy Boone on Twitter, @TCB_TheAdvocate.