Southern Californians are set to travel for Thanksgiving at levels not seen since just before the recession, spurred by an improving economy and falling gas prices, a survey found.
AAA predicts that 3.5 million Southern California residents will trek at least 50 miles from home, a 3.8% increase from 2013. That would make this Thanksgiving the busiest since 2007, when 4 million Southern Californians skipped town for a feast with friends and family.
The most popular destination? Las Vegas, followed by San Francisco and San Diego.
“As Californians see improvements in jobs and household worth this year, they are more willing to spend on travel,” AAA spokesman Jeffrey Spring said in a statement.
They’ll find that their money will go further. Gas prices have fallen for months as a North American shale oil boom and a sluggish global economy drive down crude oil prices.
Gas prices in the Southland are about 40 cents lower on average than a year earlier, and they’re quickly nearing $3 for a gallon of regular, AAA said. On Monday, the average price in Los Angeles and Long Beach was $3.12, it said.
Those low prices, however, are likely to contribute to congestion on the freeways. Eighty-five percent of those traveling are expected to go by car and 11% by air, the survey said. The number of drivers this year should rise nearly 4%, it said.
The auto club said most travelers are planning to embark Wednesday and return Sunday.
For Angelenos, traffic could be a nightmare. According to Washington-based technology firm Inrix, the Los Angeles region will have the worst traffic in the nation Wednesday, with trips taking 36% longer than average.
Los Angeles International Airport is expected to be jammed as well, with ongoing construction potentially worsening the holiday crush as travelers walk around temporary walls and construction cones.
Airport officials said they expect to see 1.97 million passengers during the Thanksgiving weekend, 4.8% more than last year.
However, officials said they are trying to ease some of the pain from the airport’s $4.1-billion makeover: Most construction will cease during the holiday travel period, and travelers can stop and pet trained therapy dogs that volunteers will lead through terminals.
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