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Record number of travelers during Thanksgiving holiday


Latest information from Auto Club

For the second straight year, a record number of Southern California residents are expected to travel for next week’s Thanksgiving holiday, with the vast majority of them driving to their destinations.

According to the Auto Club, an estimated 4.6 million Southern Californians are expected to travel for the holiday, a 3% increase from last year’s record-setting travel number and a 3.5% increase from the pre-pandemic Thanksgiving holiday.

Nationally, the Auto Club is predicting the Thanksgiving holiday to be the third busiest on record, with 55.4 million people expected to travel. That’s below only 58.6 million who traveled in 2005 and 56 million in 2019.

Of the 4.6 million Southern Californians predicted to travel for the holiday, 3.9 million of them are expected to travel by car, while 566,000 will fly and 120,000 will be taking a bus, train or cruise. The top destinations are expected to be Las Vegas, San Diego, Santa Barabara/Central Coast, the Grand Canyon and Mexico cruises or resorts, 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 like turkey dinners and Black Friday shopping,” Jenna Miller, the Auto Club’s vice president for travel products and services, said in a statement. “Travel demand has been strong all year, and AAA’s Thanksgiving travel forecast reflects people’s ongoing desire to get away and spend time with their loved ones.”

The Auto Club defines the holiday travel period as the five days from Wednesday, Nov. 22, through Sunday, Nov. 26.

Citing figures from the transportation analytics firm INRIX, the Auto Club reported that the afternoon and evening of Nov. 22 will be the busiest time on Southland freeways. The stretch of the northbound Golden State (5) Freeway between Los Angeles and Bakersfield will be particularly busy, with the drive expected to take about three hours, or roughly 88% longer than usual, according to INRIX.

“All outbound freeways are likely to be congested on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons before Thanksgiving, so drivers should expect longer travel times during those periods and plan to leave early,” according to the Auto Club.

The closure of a fire-damaged stretch of the Santa Monica (10) Freeway in downtown Los Angeles will also likely contribute to congested roadways during the holiday getaway.