Record-breaking number of Americans to embark on holiday travel
With Christmas and New Year's looming, more than one-third of Americans are expected to take to the roads, sky and water in the next week and a half.
AAA estimates a record-breaking 112.5 million travelers to pack up their bags for the year-end holiday travel period, which is defined as Saturday, Dec. 22-Tuesday, Jan. 1.
"Strong economic growth fueled by robust consumer spending continues to drive strong demand for season travel," Bryan Schilling, managing director of AAA Travel products and services, said in a news release. "With a record-breaking one-third of the country choosing to travel this holiday, roadways and airports are sure to be busy."
About 102 million people will travel by car in the coming week, according to AAA's forecast, while 6.7 million are expected to board planes and 3.7 million will take trains, buses and cruise ships.
In the air
Locally, the Metropolitan Airport Commission expects the four days before Christmas Eve and the five days after Christmas Day to be the highest volume days at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, with 40,000 travelers projected to pass through the gates each of those days. Passengers are advised to arrive at least two hours before domestic flights and three hours before international flights.
Anyone bringing gifts on flights is encouraged not to wrap them beforehand, as the Transportation Security Administration could require them to be unwrapped at the security checkpoint.
For those picking up or dropping off travelers, the airport commission suggests picking up passengers on the ticketing level and dropping them off on the baggage claim level, as the curbs in front of Terminal 1 will likely be extremely busy.
A tip for those who do enter the terminal is to consider staying in the left lane and driving farther down the curb to drop off or pick up passengers.
Another way to avoid heavy Terminal 1 traffic is to pick up arriving passengers inside. Cars can park for $3 an hour on Level 3 of the Gold Ramp.
For those flying out of the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport, Executive Director Steve Wright advised travelers to arrive at least 90 minutes prior to departure, especially if they have bags to check.
"The nice thing about the Brainerd airport, it is convenient," Wright said Thursday. "The advice I would give, though, as they're traveling around is definitely take the time to be patient, to wait in the lines, to be prepared, have all your documentation and whatnot in order so that airline staff can help all travelers through."
On the ground
The Minnesota Department of Transportation reminds those driving in the coming days to plan ahead and check road conditions before beginning their trip.
"More people choose to travel by their own personal car during the holiday season," MnDOT Commissioner of Transportation Charlie Zelle said in a news release. "With all the vehicles on the roads, it is important that motorists check the road conditions before they head out for their holiday gatherings."
Drivers in the Twin Cities will continue to see detours on Interstate 35W North to the Interstate 94 West ramp and on I-94 East to the I-35W South ramp. In Greater Minnesota, Highway 14/Highway 15 in New Ulm is under construction.
MnDOT advises motorists to do the following while traveling this holiday season:
• Allow extra time for travel delays.
• Stay back at least 10 car lengths behind snowplows.
• Slow down and drive a safe speed for current conditions, which might mean lower than the posted limit.
The National Weather Service in Duluth predicted Brainerd temperatures in the mid-20s to low-30s through Thursday, Dec. 27, with a 20 percent chance of snow Saturday, Dec. 22. Wednesday, Dec. 26, also brings a chance for snow.
Both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are expected to see highs near 24 degrees, with the forecast calling for mostly sunny weather on the 24th and mostly cloudy skies on the 25th.
NWS predicts similar, if not slightly higher, temperatures in Minneapolis for the holidays, with a chance of flurries Dec. 22 and snow likely Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 26-27. The Twin Cities will likely see sunny skies on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, with highs expected around 28 degrees.