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Thanksgiving holiday travel expected to reach nearly pre-pandemic levels

Chicagoans flock back to city following holiday weekend.
Chicagoans flock back to city following holiday weekend. 02:30

CHICAGO (CBS) -- As the Thanksgiving holiday weekend winds down comes an influx of travel back to the city by car or by plane.

As of Sunday afternoon it was smooth going at the airport with just a handful of cancellations at both Midway and O'Hare, and traffic along the Kennedy Expressway seemed pretty normal as well. 

This year experts estimate travel nearly at pre-pandemic volumes. 

AAA has predicted that 54.6 million people in the United States would travel 50 miles or more from home this Thanksgiving. That's 1.5% more than last year, and if that number proves true, 98% of pre-pandemic levels. 

Many travelers driving to their destinations stopped at the pump to fill up before the work week begins. 

In Illinois, the current average of a gallon of regular gas is down to $3.84. A month ago it was $4.18, according to AAA. 

One driver told CBS 2's Sabrina Franza his trip took him six hours from Columbus, Ohio, back to Chicago. He hopes the gas prices continue to trend in this direction. 

"I mean obviously is more expensive than Ohio or Indiana, which I was driving through, but it's come down quite considerably over the past couple of weeks. So can't complain too much but would love some more normalcy and less volatility so it is what it is," Franklin Eruo said. 

And some at airports saw delays, but other arrived early. There were at least 23 can cancellations at O'Hare from Saturday evening to Sunday evening, and five cancellations at Midway, plus more than 100 delays. 

"I'm exhausted, and I'm really hungry," said Madeline Swets, who was back in Chicago from Fort Lauderdale. "My grandma and grandpa, I haven't seen them in a few years since COVID, and my parents are down there also." 

Her United flight was delayed 30 minutes. She said she was anticipating long lines, and there were none, so she ended up waiting at the airport even longer. 

"it's just frustrating and I didn't get any texts or updates," she said. 

Her flight was one of at least 360 delays out of or into O'Hare in the past 24 hours, according to the official airline guide. 

Most delays were 15 to 30 minutes. It was the opposite for some travelers. 

"I was a little worried traveling home that Sunday was going to be crazy but actually it was smooth sailing," said Stacy Gordon, who had just gotten back from vising family in Houston with her family. "Houston airport was not crowded. Chicago seems smooth sailing we actually got in 30 minutes early today."

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