Jordyn White’s family traditionally has quite a large gathering of about 50 to 60 people for Thanksgiving.

However, in 2020, those plans were altered for the Washington & Jefferson College sophomore.

“Last year, we got all of our family on Zoom,” White recalled. “We had our own individual meals already cooked and had Thanksgiving over Zoom.”

This year, it appears as if there will be a return to the traditional holiday gathering of White’s family at her Elizabeth home.

“In my family, most of us are vaccinated,” White said. “A lot of us are coming together at my house. We’re trying to get back into the groove of our normal tradition of having the whole family over to celebrate Thanksgiving together again.”

Paige Hoban of Canonsburg didn’t have to change her family plans too much in 2020, and those plans stayed intact this year. Her in-laws have a condominium in Naples, Fla., and that’s where several family members will gather.

“We tried really hard not to let our lives change as much as possible,” Hoban said about last year’s trip.

She added that the only plans that had to be changed was the venue where they will celebrate Thanksgiving. A hotel hosted a feast for the day in previous years. That’s not the case this year, nor was it in 2020.

“They didn’t have it last year. That’s the only thing that really changed,” she said, adding that the family members will go to an alternative spot this year.

Hoban did say there were long lines at the airport this year, and she flew on a crowded flight.

“We have TSA pre-checks, so we can go to the front of the line,” she said. “The non TSA pre-check line was really backed up, and I haven’t seen that in a while.”

Masks were required on the plane.

“It was very strict,” Hoban said. “They said, ‘Unless you physically have food in your mouth or are physically drinking, you have to wear your mask.’”

After a 2020 holiday season when people may have stayed away from family and friends in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it appears get-togethers and travel are, indeed, back on this year.

“I think everybody is looking forward to this holiday to get together,” said Sandy Davis, owner of Davis Travel Agency in Monongahela. “There’s people traveling for the holiday.”

According to data from AAA, Thanksgiving travel is expected to rebound to near pre-pandemic levels.

AAA predicts 53.4 million people will travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, up 13% from 2020. That brings travel volumes within 5% of pre-pandemic levels in 2019, with air travel almost completely recovering from its dramatic fall during the pandemic, up more than 80% from last year.

The Nov. 8 opening of the U.S. borders to fully vaccinated travelers will contribute mightily to that huge increase in air travel as compared to 2020.

In Pennsylvania, AAA expects 6.5 million to be traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday; 5.8 million of them are expected to be driving to their holiday destination.

“The vast majority of them will drive,” said Jim Garrity, director of public affairs for AAA. “For the vast majority, it will be over the river and through the woods. People put Thanksgiving off last year and they’re saying, ‘I want to see my family or friends.’ There’s a lot of people saying, ‘I’m getting back to it and I want to make more memories.’”

For those who will by traveling by car, AAA recommends motorists ensure their vehicles are road ready to avoid a breakdown along the way. AAA expects to rescue more than 400,000 Americans at the roadside this Thanksgiving.

Increased gas prices are not expected to deter people. The car is the preferred mode for 90% of those traveling, according to AAA.

Davis said there are some things people are still leery about as the pandemic continues.

“Cruise people are not cruising yet,” she said, but added, “There’s people traveling for the holiday. They’re flying. Planes are full, from what I understand. There’s a lot of beach vacations planned.”

Carl Brandtonies, owner of Worldview Travel in Washington, said he also has seen an increase in the number of folks planning to travel this year.

“Last year, you really couldn’t travel – only domestically,” he said. “People are looking at Disney Caribbean (Beach Resort), things like that. I haven’t had too much for Europe yet.”

Brandtonies said he has received a lot of inquiries from people wanting to know the COVID regulations for various potential destinations.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting vaccinated to help minimize COVID-19 risk.

Davis agreed, saying people can get back to pre-pandemic holiday travel plans, “as long as they’re vaccinated.”

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