NEWBURYPORT — With more than 1.2 million Massachusetts residents expected to be traveling for Thanksgiving – a 15.5% increase from last year – holiday travel volumes could return to what they were prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to AAA.

“Here in Massachusetts, we do expect a pretty good uptick in traffic and overall travel volume, as compared to last year,” said Mark Schieldrop, spokesperson for AAA Northeast.

These numbers are about 90 to 95% consistent with what they were in 2019, just months before COVID-19 concerns hit this region, he said.

The not-for-profit auto club releases its predictions for the holiday week each year. In Massachusetts, 1.1 million people are expected to travel by car – a 10% increase from last year – and about 150,000 people are expected to fly, an 83% increase from last year, Schieldrop reported.

“The big jump is going to be in air travel compared to last year,” he said.

For those looking to avoid traffic, the worst travel time will likely be Wednesday, when most people will be on the road or headed to the airport, the spokesperson said.

Schieldrop said most people will work through Wednesday, rather than taking additional days off ahead of the holiday. Some people may leave work a bit early, which means the afternoon commute will mix with travel traffic, he said. Traffic will likely be at its heaviest Wednesday between 1 and 7 p.m.

For those returning from holiday travel, Sunday afternoon will likely be the busiest time, Schieldrop said.

“If you can leave earlier or a little later, that’s your best bet,” he said.

“There’s definitely going to be a lot more travel than last year and the reason is mainly that people are more comfortable with the idea of traveling than they were last year,” Schieldrop said, noting that the availability of COVID-19 vaccinations is a major factor.

“There’s still a lot of pent-up demand from the pandemic where folks stayed closer to home,” he said. “They didn’t travel as much and a lot of folks didn’t see family or friends last year or even the year before. A lot of folks feel like they are making up for lost time.”

AAA’s projections for holiday travel are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit, a London-based business information provider.

There are no concerns about inclement weather in the Newburyport area at this time.

National Weather Service meteorologist Torry Gaucher said Wednesday will be mostly sunny with temperatures in the low to mid-40s. On Thursday, temperatures will likely be in the low 50s with increasing clouds throughout the day, the meteorologist reported.

For those traveling on Friday, there is the possibility for light rain showers from the late morning into the afternoon. Those traveling in western Massachusetts may see a bit of a wintery mix as the higher elevations will be a bit cooler, Gaucher said.

Those temperatures could support minimal snow in that region, he said.

Staff reporter Heather Alterisio can be reached via email at halterisio@newburyportnews.com or by phone at 978-961-3149. Follow her on Twitter @HeathAlt.

Staff reporter Heather Alterisio can be reached via email at halterisio@newburyportnews.com or by phone at 978-961-3149. Follow her on Twitter @HeathAlt.

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