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Family surprises loved ones with 'Happy Thanksgiving' yard sign as they spend time apart during pandemic

The Long family is used to traveling for Thanksgiving. This year they relied on technology and an unexpected surprise.

SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. — Despite Center for Disease Control and Prevent guidelines, millions of Americans traveled this Thanksgiving holiday. The Long family, however, is not included in that statistic. This is the first time in more than 20 years that the Sandy Springs family of five is spending Thanksgiving without their extended loved ones.

At 7 years old, Caleb, understands why he cannot go see his grandparents - John and Jean - who live in Louisville, Kentucky.

"If you're older and you get the coronavirus when you're older, well you have higher chances of getting it," he said.

Caleb and his siblings,  3-year-old Virginia and 5-year-old Bennett, as well as his parents, David and Claire, have been relying on technology to get by. 

His grandparents decided to send them a sign of their love... literally.

Credit: WXIA
Photo of the Long's and grandparents John and Jean who live in Louisville.

"We literally had just driven back from Indian Springs and pulled in the driveway at 4:30 and we were like 'what!?" said Caleb's father, David. "We were confused at first because we weren't sure why there was a sign. It was awesome. The kids were so excited to get out of the car. A total surprise."

The large, colorful signs on their front yard read "Happy Thanksgiving, we miss you" and were a surprise for the whole family. 

"This makes us feel like they're here and makes it a very, very memorable year," said Caleb's mother, Claire. "This is something we will be talking about at Thanksgiving's for the rest of our lives."

Credit: WXIA

While their family took the CDC's advice, they held a virtual celebration and didn't travel. Airports nationwide are seeing the largest number of travelers since March, during the onset of the pandemic. This is despite numbers being about 40 percent lower than this time last year.

RELATED: TSA numbers show Thanksgiving eve travel at less than half that of last year

According to the TSA, this year more than 1,070,967 people traveled the day before Thanksgiving. In 2019, that number was 2,624,250.

On the road, the expectations were similar. AAA said it expected up to 50 million Americans to travel for Thanksgiving -- a reduction compared to the 55 million who traveled in 2019.

"We decided since we couldn't go to Louisville to see them that we would go to a state park for three days," explained Claire. "This was just really touching because it was a mutual decision to not go visit them."

Airports are expecting the highest number of travel the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

RELATED: Security upgrade at Atlanta airport allows for speedier lines, electronics and liquids to remain in bags