LAX expected to see up to 3.5 million travelers this holiday; Here’s when it’ll be busiest and the most popular destinations

Local news

LAX will see its busiest travel period this year as travel returns to its to pre-pandemic levels this holiday season. 

The Automobile Club of Southern California projects that the year-end holidays will be the third busiest on record for Southern California.

Up to 3.5 million travelers are expected to pass through Los Angeles International Airport between Thursday and Jan. 3.

That’s still less than the 4.5 million travelers seen at LAX during the same time in 2019, but a much higher travel volume than the 1.85 million passengers that went through the airport this time last year.

LAX will be one of the busiest airports in the country this year for domestic travel.

Peak travel days at LAX are expected to be Dec. 17, 19, 26 and Jan. 2, when more than 200,000 passengers are expected during each of the days.

Holiday road trips

Nearly 8.8 million Southern Californians are expected to travel for the holidays, compared to 9.3 million in 2019, according to the Automobile Club.

The majority of Southern Californians plan to travel by car, and they will be faced with gas prices at their highest level ever for this time of year, AAA said in a news release.

“Last year at this time, many people cancelled or postponed holiday trip plans as a new wave of the pandemic hit without widespread vaccination availability,” said Filomena Andre of the Auto Club. “This year after most people have gotten vaccinated, travelers are mindful of the continued need for caution and the new Omicron variant, but have greater confidence in taking long-awaited family vacations.”

Sunday, Jan. 2 is expected to be the most congested day of the travel period in many areas, including I-405 South from Sunset Boulevard to the 105 Freeway.

That stretch of the freeway may get almost 200% more traffic than normal between 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on that day, AAA projects.

Most popular travel destinations

Anaheim is expected to be the second most popular destination for travelers nationwide over the 11-day period from Dec. 23 to Jan. 2, according to AAA.

The top five destinations for Southern Californians are:

  1. Las Vegas
  2. San Diego
  3. Anaheim
  4. Grand Canyon
  5. Yosemite

Tips for maneuvering through LAX

To help with the large holiday travel volume, LAX will deploy additional resources in and around the terminals, including more traffic control officers, paramedic bike teams and volunteers to help guests at the terminals.

There are also ways to make things go smoother while at the airport.

Here are some tips from LAX:

  • Check in online ahead of time
  • Check parking options ahead of time (Drivers can check parking availability at LAX here.)
  • Pre-book parking before arriving at LAX. (Drivers can visit parking.FlyLAX.com to book a spot)
  • Enroll in the Transportation Security Administration’s Pre√® or U.S. Customs & Border Protection’s Global Entry to reduce wait times.
  • Use LAX Order Now to browse order and pay for food from any of the airport’s terminals
  • Guests flying out of Terminals 7 and 8 can reserve a time at TSA screening through LAX Fast Lane for customers traveling with United Airlines. Guests reserve a 15-minute window to proceed through security in Terminal 7. 
  • Don’t forget your mask. Face coverings are required inside all terminals.
  • Don’t forget your coronavirus test results, if you’re going somewhere that requires them or arriving in the U.S. after traveling internationally.

All international travelers flying to the U.S. are required to get tested, regardless of vaccination status.

LAX offers free COVID-19 tests across from Terminal 6, inside the Tom Bradley International Terminal along Aisle C, and near the information booth on the Lower/Arrivals Level of Terminal 2. More information can be found here.

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