Holiday travel is back near pre-pandemic volume. Here’s what to expect on the road and in the air.

On this Thanksgiving week, Minnesotans are back on the road again.

We met the Vogland family of Bloomington fueling up at the gas station before heading north to Duluth.

They stayed at home during much of the pandemic.

“Most of the time, yeah, yeah,” recalls Dawn Vogland. “We thought about canceling because there were a few things, a couple of hiccups, but we’re going to continue on and enjoy some family time.”

She and her husband Zachary made their travel plans during the summer — keeping an eye on gas prices and fun things to do for their kids, 5-year-old Emily, 10-year-old Kayla and 12-year-old Wyatt.   

“I just deal with it. Money’s money,” Zachary says. “Prices have gone up on everything. It’s clothes, it’s food.”

The Voglands aren’t alone.

AAA says this week, more than 3.8 million people from our region — Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and the Dakotas — will be driving to a holiday destination.

It’s the third busiest Thanksgiving travel period since 2000.

“Travel this year is soaring back,” says Meredith Mitts, from AAA Minnesota and Iowa. “We are now near those pre-pandemic numbers.”

Mitts says that’s despite gas prices being about 30 cents higher than last Thanksgiving. The national average is about $3.64 a gallon for regular and $3.45 in Minnesota.

“There is a pent-up demand for travel that was brought on by the pandemic,” Mitts explains. “People have slowly gained more confidence in the ability to be able to travel, and so there is that making up for lost time.”

Hannah Brinkman of Edina says she’s feeling confident about pandemic safety, but she’s not liking the pain at the pump.  

“It’s definitely a lot higher and going to St. Cloud, oh, I’ve got to fill up on gas,” she notes.

Brinkman says this year is different.

A nurse assistant, she’s heading to a larger family gathering than last year.  

“Last year, you didn’t want to expose anybody, and working in health care, if I was exposed to anybody, I didn’t want to potentially bring that home,” Brinkman explains.

Meanwhile, AAA says a relatively small number of people from our region are flying — about 225,000 people.

They say overall, there’s an 8% nationwide increase in air travel from last year.

“[Tuesday], Wednesday and Sunday should be the busiest travel days of the season,” said Marty Robinson, the TSA Minnesota federal security director.

The TSA advises the busiest times will be between 4-6 a.m. and 2-5 p.m.

The agency says with busy traffic, parking, baggage check-in— and getting through security, you should get to the airport at least two hours early.

“We’re getting back to normal,” Robinson says. “The airlines are seeing more passengers. We’re definitely seeing more passengers who haven’t been around for a while, so it’s been interesting.”

In the air and behind the wheel, Minnesotans say they’re more than ready for a holiday getaway.  

We asked Dawn Vogland about heading out.

“Yeah, we have to get away from the everyday life,” she smiled. “Stress.”