NEW YORK (WABC) -- Between road trips and plane rides, the Fourth of July holiday weekend is expected to be busier than even before the COVID pandemic.
Chris Ladonia is headed on a weekend getaway to Wildwood from Connecticut.
"Beach, pool, relaxing, chasing around kids, not sure how much relaxing that's going to be," Ladonia said.
It was a little bit wet Thursday with traffic near the George Washington Bridge, but Ladonia says it wasn't that bad.
But traffic could get worse. AAA estimates of the 47.7 million Americans that are traveling between July 1 through July 5, 43.6 million people will hit the roads.
That's a 5% increase from 2019, and the busiest travel period since the pandemic started.
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"I think everyone is eager to do something," traveler Zina Fernandez said.
This is Fernandez's first family vacation in more than a year. She's making a 16-hour drive from Massachusetts to South Carolina with kids in tow.
"We have books, we have tablets, everything they need," Fernandez said.
Drivers on the other hand may feel a little pain at the pump.
Service stations are already filling up, and prices are higher than they've been in seven years, up to a nationwide average of $3.09 a gallon, up 92 cents from last year.
Close to 44 million Americans are driving this weekend, up 40% from last year.
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Airports will also be busy, with 3.5 million passengers expected to travel by plane this holiday weekend, including about a million from New York area airports.
"We haven't been together is almost two years, so we're very excited to see our family," said Carol Ott, who was traveling to Michigan so 3-year-old Bobby and 1-year-old Emma can see where their mom grew up. "It's just really special they get to see aunts and uncles and grandparents for the first time."
The TSA screened more than 2.1 million people Thursday across the country, more than the same day in 2019.
But 3-year-old Gracen's first ride on an escalator at LaGuardia came with a roller coaster for his dad.
"We're getting ready to go to Dayton, Ohio, to meet my wife's family," Kirk Caby said. "Everything has been canceled."
Airlines are struggling with the travel surge, laying off thousands of workers in the pandemic while receiving billions in federal relief funds, now scrambling to hire.
Pilots blame the airlines.
"A year ago we were canceling flights because we didn't have enough passengers," one pilot said. "Now we're we're canceling flights because we don't have enough pilots. How did that happen?"
Meanwhile on Coney Island, large crowds are expected for the weekend.
"I just want to see the people again, I want to hear the music, I want to feel the energy," New Hampshire resident Veronica Fernandez said.
Most COVID restrictions are lifted for people on the beach and boardwalk, though some businesses may require masks.
While no fireworks were planned on Friday night, the big extravaganza will go on Sunday at 10 p.m., and so many are looking forward to being here in person.
On top of that, there's the famous Nathan's hot dog eating contest that will go on at full capacity. The contenders weighed in Friday in Hudson Yards, including 14-time champ Joey Chestnut.
So whether you are flying or hitting the roads to get to your destination, you are urged to pack your patience and leave extra time for traffic.
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