MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — As people pack their bags for Thanksgiving, the pandemic and gas prices are throwing a wrench in some travel plans.

Even so, a spokesperson for Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport says the number of travelers Wednesday is expected to be about 33,000 people, around double what it was last year the day before Thanksgiving. Air travel across the board is up 80% since then.

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Many Minnesotans, like Tamyka Thomas, are staying closer to home. Thomas is choosing to spend the holiday with family in Hopkins instead of traveling to see relatives in Chicago or Atlanta. She says the prices at the gas pump helped decide her Thanksgiving plans.

“It went from a dollar something to three something,” Thomas said. “That’s too much money, that’s too much. The gas is high.”

President Joe Biden announced Tuesday he will be releasing oil from strategic reserves in an effort to lower prices.

“It will take time, but before long you should see the price of gas drop where you fill up your tank,” Biden said.

Jacqueline Brandt, a University of Minnesota law student, says the cost of gas recently has been a little shocking, but there are other reasons she’s not going home to Texas.

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“Definitely COVID was part of it,” Brandt said. “We have only two weeks between Thanksgiving and final exams, so that was a big part of it, too.”

Brandt’s plan instead is a fully-vaccinated “friends-giving,” which is in line with HealthPartners guidelines for a safe holiday season. The health care provider recommends being cautious at events with strangers or casual acquaintances. And if there is COVID-19 exposure, they suggest scheduling a test two to three days later.

“I try not to let the pandemic stop me, but I still be safe with the mask and stuff and hand sanitizer and watching, staying around people,” said Keith Washington, who’s flying to Denver Wednesday to see family.

Thomas says her family is vaccinated, which helps Thanksgiving feel more normal.

“Everybody’s doing good and feeling healthy,” she said. “We’re not really too much concerned about that anymore.”

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If flying out of MSP, airport officials say there will likely be long lines most of the day. They advise showing up two hours before the flight takes off.

David Schuman