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Expect holiday travel to be busier this year

According to AAA, 109 million Americans will travel more than 50 miles over the holidays, a 34% jump over last year.

MINNEAPOLIS — We have a busy travel week ahead. This holiday season AAA says around 109 million Americans will hit the road, traveling 50 miles or more.

That’s a 34% jump over last year, but still down compared to a normal pre-COVID pandemic year.

"It is not quite to our pre-pandemic numbers. I believe we are 8% lower than we were in 2019,” AAA spokesperson Meredith Mitts said.

Mitts added that a lot of holiday travelers have already left, taking off work this entire week, but she says the busiest time will be Wednesday afternoon.

"We're seeing that a lot of people are taking maybe a half day on Wednesday. We are projecting the worst times to travel, especially in major cities and metro areas, is going to be between noon and 6p.m.," she said.

Thursday afternoon from between noon and 6 p.m. will also be busy.

When it comes to the commute back home, Mitts says Sunday will be the busiest day, but MnDOT Traffic Coordinator Brian Kary told KARE 11 that the return traffic will be more spread out this year.

"I do think a lot of folks end up taking that week off between Christmas and New Year’s a lot of times," Kary said.

Even though the number of drivers, 109 million, is more than double what was seen over the Fourth of July this year, with 47 million Americans traveling, Kary said it won't feel that busy on the road.

"Fourth of July is probably the worst one we see because of all of the traffic hitting the road at the same time. With the winter holidays, we don’t see that as much. It’s more spread out,” Kary explained.

Plus, during the summer holidays, most people go north to cabin country, whereas the winter holidays people go everywhere.

The only hiccup this time of year is winter weather, which is currently looking good.

The forecast shows a chance of rain and snow Christmas Eve, which AAA says could impact a few last minute travelers, but everyone else should be good to go.

If your Christmas and New Year's plans involve getting on a plane, give yourself plenty of time to get from your front door to your gate.

Nationwide, millions of Americans are expected to fly this holiday season, and MSP International Airport estimates Sunday, Dec. 26 will be the busiest travel day of the year. Booking forecasts show 35,000 people could pass through TSA checkpoints that day. Before Christmas, MSP expects to see more than 31,700 people clear security on Thursday, Dec. 23. On the same day in 2020, just 14,721 people were screened by TSA.

Here are some tips to keep in mind before heading to the airport:

  • Face masks are still required inside MSP Airport and on all airplanes
  • Arrive at the airport at least two hours in advance for a domestic flight or three hours prior for an international flight
  • Get the latest road reports around MSP using MnDOT 511
  • Use both Terminal 1 roadways for picking up or dropping off passengers
  • Wait until you've reached your destination to wrap presents. Check here for other security checkpoint tips
  • Don’t arrive too early when picking up passengers and use MSP’s free cell phone lot
  • Pre-booked parking is available at Terminal 1
  • Food and drinks can be ordered through your mobile device from 15 venues in Terminal 1
  • Travelers can get COVID-19 testing at MSP before or after a flight
  • Vaccine appointments are available for two MSP Airport locations: Post-security in Terminal 1 and pre-security in Terminal 2

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