By car, plane, rail and even by sea, nearly 44 million Americans plan to travel over the Memorial Day weekend, coming close to the record for the late May holiday that has stood since 2005.

"We haven't seen Memorial Day weekend travel numbers like these in almost 20 years," said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel. "We're projecting an additional 1 million travelers this holiday weekend compared to 2019, which not only means we're exceeding pre-pandemic levels but also signals a very busy summer travel season ahead."

All that translates into packed roads as more than 38 million people will get out of town by driving, according to AAA's estimates. That represents a 4% increase over last year and the most since 2000 when the auto group began keeping track.

Although gas prices will be about the same this year as last when the national average was $3.57 — or even a tad lower — drivers may burn more gas sitting in traffic if they leave or return during peak periods.

"Nothing ruins a vacation more quickly than congestion," said Jamie Holter with the Seattle-based traffic analytics company INRIX.

That means drivers should avoid heading out between noon and 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday, she said, and returning home between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sunday or Monday. Specifically, INRIX says the worst traffic in the area will be on westbound Interstate 94 between Eau Claire, Wis., and the Twin Cities. Congestion will peak at 8:45 a.m. Monday and the 82-mile trip will take 1 hour and 47 minutes, the company predicts.

Airport terminals will see crowds, too, especially on Friday, which the TSA says will be the busiest travel day with 3 million people passing through security checkpoints. More than 18 million passengers will be screened between Friday and Wednesday, marking a 6.4% increase over the same period last year, the agency said.

Deeply affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, travel on buses, travel on trains and cruises has rebounded, too, Twidale said.

"We're back to 2019 numbers," she said noting 1.9 million people will use those transportation modes this year, a 5.6% increase over last year. "Travel demand has been soaring and long holiday weekends create the perfect window for getaways."

MSP Airport road construction

Here is a heads-up if you plan to pick up or drop off anybody at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport this summer. The upper roadway — the departures level — at Terminal 1 is under construction and sections of it will be closed at times. Portions of the lower level road outside baggage claim will have periodic closures, too.

Work started this month on the side of the road nearest the parking garages, but will switch to the terminal-curbside before the joint replacement, sealing and cleaning project is finished in September.

Terminal access will be maintained, but the maintenance could cause delays and traffic backups, the Metropolitan Airports Commission warns.

"Please allow extra time," the commission, which operates the airports, said.