Thousands of Southland residents are expected to set out Wednesday in what the Automobile Club of Southern California says will be the busiest Thanksgiving holiday in Southern California since 2005, with 4.2 million residents expected to take part.
That’s a 5.1 percent increase over last year, the AAA says. The vast majority of Southern California travelers — 3.6 million or 86 percent of all travelers — will drive to their destinations, a 5.1 percent increase over last year. Another 476,000 Southern Californians are expected to fly, which is an increase of 5.9 percent from the 2017 holiday, while 123,000 will go by other means, such as train, bus or cruise, which will represent a 1.2 percent increase over last year.
The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as five days from Wednesday to Sunday, Nov. 25, and a holiday trip is defined as one of at least 50 miles from home.
The all-time record number of Thanksgiving travelers was set in 2005, with 58.6 million traveling nationwide, 6.9 million statewide and nearly 4.3 million in Southern California.
“Even with an average 5 percent increase in Thanksgiving holiday airfares over last year, consumer confidence has continued to increase demand for air-travel destinations,” said Filomena Andre, the Auto Club’s vice president for travel products and services.
Anaheim is expected to be the third most popular destination for Thanksgiving travelers nationwide, according to AAA’s online and travel agency bookings. A survey of the Auto Club’s travel agents reveals the top five destinations for Southern Californians this holiday are: 1) Las Vegas 2) San Diego 3) San Francisco 4) Grand Canyon 5) Anaheim.
The transportation analytics firm INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion Thanksgiving week during the early evening commute period, with travel times having started to increase on Monday.
In general, the Auto Club recommends travelers plan an early morning start. If travelers’ schedules are flexible, the best days to travel during Thanksgiving week will likely be Friday and Saturday.
According to INRIX, the heaviest congestion period in Southern California will be between 2:30 and 4:30 p.m. Wednesday on southbound Interstate 5 between Pacific Coast Highway in south Orange County (Exit 79) and Coast Highway in Oceanside (Exit 54B). The worst time to leave from downtown Los Angeles for LAX via I-110 South over this holiday period, according to INRIX, was Tuesday between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Southern California gas prices are dropping at a fairly steady pace from their highest levels since 2014 but are expected to still be 50 to 60 cents higher per gallon than during last year’ holiday. The Auto Club recommends that travelers use a free app like AAA Mobile to shop virtually for the cheapest gas prices along their route.
AAA expects to help 101,000 stranded drivers in California and nearly 360,000 at the roadside across the country during this Thanksgiving holiday. Dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts will be the main reasons for members to call AAA for a roadside rescue. AAA recommends motorists take their vehicle to a trusted repair facility to perform any needed maintenance before heading out.
In other Thanksgiving Holiday news: Thousands to Receive Thanksgiving Dinner Fixings at Annual South L.A. Giveaway