By WCCO-TV Staff

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — MSP Airport says the day before Thanksgiving is the busiest travel day of the holiday week.

The airport is expecting more than 33,000 people to pass through security checkpoints on Wednesday.

READ MORE: Minnesota Weather: Dry Roads For Thanksgiving Travel

The Sunday after the holiday is typically the second busiest day.

Crowds at the airport are expected to double compared to last year. Air travel across the board is up 80% since then.

(credit: CBS)

A couple from St. Paul traveling to see family in Boston got to the airport early, expecting long wait times.

“I’m hoping that the staffing levels at the airline are adequate because I came to drop off someone a couple of days ago and the lines you know were all the way out,” Shalini Raghavan said. “So I’m hoping we’re beating that rush, we’re catching the morning flight. But sort of excited to get back on travel again.”

Jared Johnson and his family, from Blaine, are traveling with kids for the first time since the pandemic.

“Just get here super early. We got here about two hours before we’re ready to board,” Jared Johnson said. “So get here nice and early so we can get through the line and get settled get the kids food and hopefully get them calm before the flight.”

Plan for longer wait times in ticketing and security checkpoints.

Airports across the country are reporting significantly more traffic now that the U.S. borders are open again to foreign travelers.

AAA says the West North Central census region, which includes North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and four other states, will see the greatest share of its population traveling. Nearly one in every five people (19.6%) from the region are expected to travel during the holiday period.

‘It’s really amazing to be able to come home’

As travelers shuffled across Terminal 1, only a slight step was necessary to keep Emily occupied as her foot worked the pedal on the baggage claim piano.

READ MORE: COVID, Gas Prices Causing More Minnesotans To Stay Home For Thanksgiving

“I also knew I’d be waiting like three hours for my sister to fly in from NorCal, and I was counting on this piano being here!” she said before her fingers ran across the keys again.

She’s grateful for the chance to practice her talents, not just for people passing, but soon up in Grand Rapids.

“They always look forward to it,” she said.

Unlike most, Emily traveled extensively by air in 2020. She’s noticed the boom in traffic at airports this year and welcomes it. She’s also glad for a chance to slow down and be with loved ones.

“This year getting back to work, I didn’t get to come visit as often so it’s really amazing to be able to come home for a couple days,” she said.

The evening before Thanksgiving at MSP saw travelers arriving in waves as planes hit their destination. Sons, daughters, relatives and grandparents stood outside, eagerly awaiting that holiday hug they missed last year at the arrival lane.

“Excited, very excited,” said Judy Devereaux as she stood next to her bags with her husband Rick.

Their daughter was only a few minutes away from picking them up.

“It’s gonna be great. It’s been a long time and it’s gonna be fun to see them all,” Rick Devereaux said.

The couple held back on Thanksgiving travel in 2020.

“It’s sort of sad, but understandable, so nothing you could do about it,” Judy said.

But their confidence in the vaccine, and desire be with family, preserved this holiday season.

“It all developed about August of this year. We all thought we could get together and get up here and Thanksgiving was the best time to do it,” Rick said.

Minutes later, the couple mirrored many others nearby, as they were met with a warm embrace from family members happy to see them for a holiday weekend that won’t be missed this year.