For the second year in a row, AAA is predicting record-breaking travel for Southern California over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
As many as 4.6 million Southern Californians are anticipated to hit the roads or skies during the five-day period from Wednesday, Nov. 22 to Sunday, Nov. 26, according to the Auto Club of Southern California. Last year, a record 4.5 million people in the region traveled for the holiday — about 3% less than this year’s forecast.
The bulk of forecasted travelers – about 3.9 million – in California are likely to travel by car. Meanwhile, 566,000 people will be traveling by air, and 120,000 people will be utilizing other modes of transit like buses, trains or cruises, AAA predicts.
Nationwide, AAA is projecting this Thanksgiving to be the third busiest on record, with 55.4 million people anticipated to travel. The record for the highest number of Thanksgiving travelers — about 58.6 million — was set in 2005, according to the Auto Club.
“Thanksgiving is one of the more popular holidays for people to travel to see family and friends so they can take part in annual traditions,” Auto Club spokesperson Doug Shupe said. “Travel demand has been strong all year and the number of anticipated travelers this Thanksgiving reflects people’s ongoing desire to get away and spend time with loved ones.”
As far as where these travelers are headed goes, AAA says that warm weather destinations, theme parks and cruise port cities will be among the most popular destinations during the holiday.
For Southern California residents, San Diego will be one of the top spots for Thanksgiving vacationers, as well as Las Vegas, Santa Barbara, the Grand Canyon and Mexico via cruises.
With a historic number of travelers this Thanksgiving, AAA encourages people to plan ahead and allow extra time for their travel plans, including arriving at the airport two to three hours before a flight or leaving for a road trip with some cushion time for traffic.
The busiest time on the Southern California freeways will be in the afternoon and evening of Wednesday, Nov. 22, according to the transportation firm INRIX. During that time, the biggest impact will likely be on the northbound Interstate 5 in between Los Angeles and Bakersfield, which is projected to take about 88% longer than normal.
AAA says that other heavily impacted routes include the southbound Interstate 15 between Interstate 10 and San Diego on the afternoon of Sunday, Nov. 26, and I-5 south between Bakersfield and Los Angeles on the afternoon of Friday, Nov. 24.
All outbound freeways are also likely to see some congestion on Tuesday and Wednesday ahead of Thanksgiving, according to the Auto Club.
While busy roads are likely to be a headache for some, there is good news for drivers hitting the roads during Thanksgiving: gas prices are forecasted to be about 30 cents a gallon less than this time last year.
According to AAA, most local metro areas will average less than $5.25 a gallon around the holiday.