With masked faces and cautious optimism, holiday travelers arrive at the airport

The CDC is urging people not to travel for the holidays this year, warning it increases your chances of contracting COVID-19.  Millions of people are still hitting the roadways and sky to visit loved ones.

Masks on and luggage in hand: The surge in COVID-19 cases is not stopping folks from heading home for the holidays.  At Tampa International Airport, the travel rush is here; Wednesday was expected to be the busiest day for passengers before the 25th.

"We’re going to see about 40,000 passengers come through the airport today, now that’s about half of what we saw this time last year," said TPA spokesperson Emily Nipps.

AAA projects about 85-million people will be traveling across the country between the December 23 and January 3.  That is a drop of at least 29% from a year ago, but still a massive movement of people in the middle of a pandemic.

Did Thanksgiving have an impact? CDC again warns against holiday travel

The Centers for Disease Control is warning holiday revelers not to celebrate the holidays with anyone outside of their own household.

"We’re heading to Atlanta to see family," said traveler Leona Menelas.  "It kinda makes us anxious with everybody around and stuff, but with the masks and hand sanitizer it makes us feel better."

Many airlines have stopped limiting capacity on flights, so if you are heading out of town, planes may be full.  Face masks on board and inside the airport are still required.

The CDC recommends being tested for COVID-19 one to three days before you leave, and three to five days after you return.  Anyone arriving or departing at TPA can get a PCR or rapid test done in the main terminal.

"Getting tested pre-flight, we’re flying the day after Christmas to Peru and have to have tests to get on the plane," explained traveler Larry Madding.

The coronavirus-testing site opened back in October, and airport officials say up to 250 passengers are being tested daily -- a popular and convenient option for many folks.

"They guarantee your result in time to get on a plane," Madding said.  "The others can give you a result but they can’t guarantee they’re gonna give it to you in time to get on the flight."

Experts encourage anyone traveling to stay six feet away from others as much as possible; wear a mask throughout the trip, bring extra hand sanitizer, and wash your hands regularly.