CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — When it comes to air travel these days, preparation is key.

Paul Nedeau, his wife Lauren and toddler son Charlie, along with about 80 pounds of luggage and other essentials, flew in to Gerald R. Ford International Airport from Philadelphia to visit family near Whitehall on Tuesday.

When it comes to packing, they’ve got it down to a science.

“The key is checking the bags. We check the car seat, the roller bags. And then you try to consolidate as much as you can,” said Nedeau. “If you spend enough time thinking about it, you’ll figure it out.”

The Nedeau’s are among the estimated 70,000 passengers expected to pass through the gates at the Ford Airport between today and next Monday.

Around the country and here in West Michigan, holiday travel is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels this Thanksgiving travel period. That includes air travel.

  • The security checkpoint at Gerald R. Ford International Airport on Nov. 22, 2022.
  • The security checkpoint at Gerald R. Ford International Airport on Nov. 22, 2022.

The year 2019 was a record-setter for air travel at Ford Airport near Grand Rapids and 2022 activity is not far behind those record numbers.

Most travelers through Michigan’s second largest airport will be just visiting.

“So unlike some airports that have a surge Tuesday, Wednesday and tomorrow, the surge here tends to happen Saturday, Sunday and Monday when people are going back home,” said Bill Byrne, the Transportation Security Administration’s deputy federal security director for Michigan.

As for where those who will leave are headed: Denver; Dallas; Charlotte, North Carolina; Washington, D.C.; and Fort Meyers, Orlando, Punta Gorda and Clearwater, Florida are the most popular destinations.

The TSA’s Byrne says before you head to the airport, think ahead. Liquids are the more common carry-ons that slow people down at checkpoint. 

“They can bring food items, like casseroles and pies. But liquid items such as gravy or jams or jelly’s should be put in checked luggage,” Byrne said.

But there are other, more interesting examples of what not to bring on board.

“You’ll see that these are some of the prohibited items we’ve collected just over the last 30 days,” Byrne said as he showed examples including baseball bats, an electric drill, blades and other items.

Byrne said starting off with an empty bag at home can speed the process.

“Some people will use a backpack or other bag that they go hunting with. And they may forget in the side pocket that there’s ammunition or something like that. Those can really become a problem,” Byrne said.

Leaving from Ford Airport may be a better experience for travelers than from other airports, as the airport won the top service award for 2021 from an international council of airports.