Millions of Southern California residents will be hitting the road or boarding airplanes for the winter holiday season, with the travel crunch expected to begin as early as Thursday at Los Angeles International Airport.
According to LAX officials, roughly 3.5 million people will be passing through the airport’s terminals between Thursday and Jan. 3, doubling the number from last year’s pandemic-impacted holiday season. The peak travel days are expected to be this Friday and Sunday, and Dec. 26 and Jan. 2.
The Auto Club of Southern California, meanwhile, is predicting that nearly 8.8 million Southern California residents will be taking holiday trips between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2, making it the third busiest year-end holiday season on record locally. The number is down from the 9.3 million people who traveled for the holidays in 2019, and just under the number from 2018.
“Last year at this time, many people canceled or postponed holiday trip plans as a new wave of the pandemic hit without widespread vaccination availability,” Filomena Andre, the Auto Club’s vice president for Travel Products & Services, said in a statement. “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.”
According to the Auto Club, the top destinations for Southern California travelers will be Las Vegas, San Diego, Anaheim, the Grand Canyon and Yosemite.
The vast majority of the anticipated travelers, about 7.8 million, will take their trips by car, according to the Auto Club, despite sky-high gasoline prices currently averaging more than $4 per gallon.
Given the continuing pandemic, Auto Club officials urged travelers to be aware of COVID restrictions that may be in place at their destinations, pack protective gear and hand sanitizer, and minimize travel stops by packing snacks, food and drinks.
LAX officials reminded people who may be traveling internationally that new federal rules require all inbound travelers to receive a negative COVID-19 test within one day of their flight. The airport also has on-site testing centers in terminals 6 and 2, and in the Tom Bradley International Terminal.
Federal rules also require face masks in all airport terminals.
Airport officials urged people to pre-reserve parking spaces through the LAX website at parking.flylax.com. As usual, they encouraged travelers to arrive at least two hours in advance for domestic flights and three hours ahead for international travel.