Economy curbs holiday travel

GLENDALE — Fewer motorists will be traveling this Thanksgiving due to the state’s economic downturn, officials said.

Californians have less money to spend on travel this year, even with plummeting gas prices, said Marie Montgomery, spokeswoman for the Automobile Club of Southern California.

Travel by car and airplane has declined 2% this holiday as compared to last year, which is the first decrease of its kind since 2002, she said.

But while overall travel is down, Montgomery said, motorists should still expect traffic congestion on major highways, because about 82% of the holiday’s travelers will be driving.

Motorists also will get a break at the pump with the average price of regular unleaded gas dipping below $2.30 in Southern California.

“Prepare to be pleasantly surprised by gas prices,” she said.

While it has dropped below the $2 mark in Orange County, the lowest gas price for Glendale and Burbank was $2.10 on Monday for regular, Montgomery said.

The price of gas drops 3 cents daily, Montgomery said.

And gas prices aren’t expected to rise this week and holiday weekend, she said.

The cost of gas has decreased more than half from the highest recorded fuel price of $4.62 for the Los Angeles area, she said.

Cities east of the Pasadena (210) Freeway, such as Glendora, have some of the lowest gas prices, Montgomery said.

She advises that Glendale and Burbank motorists fuel up on gas in their cities before they head to their travel destinations.

The top five travel destinations Thanksgiving for Southern Californians are San Diego, Mexico, Las Vegas, San Francisco and the Grand Canyon, Montgomery said.

Fewer people have been flying since the summer and that trend is likely to continue through this holiday season, said Victor Gill, Bob Hope Airport spokesman.

“It’s safe to assume fewer people will fly,” he said.

But the decrease can also be attributed to fewer available seats since there are fewer flights, Gill said. Airlines cut back on flights because they anticipated gas prices would be high, he said.

People generally book Tuesday and Wednesday flights for their Thanksgiving destination, which are also the busiest days at the airport, he said. Sunday, also, is hectic for the airport because that’s the day people return.

Fewer people fly on Thanksgiving because they typically want to have already arrived at their destination that day, Gill said.

But while fewer people are expected to fly this holiday, the airport still will likely be bustling so Gill advises that holiday travelers give themselves significant time to park and wait in lines at the airport.

San Fernando resident Hector Garcia will have Thanksgiving dinner with his local family members.

Garcia, who works in Glendale, has family members in Guatemala, but flying out to visit them can be steep, he said.

Instead, he opts to celebrate the holiday at home.

“We all get together as a family,” he said.

Vartan Garabedian also won’t be traveling.

The Encino resident was pumping $2.09 regular unleaded fuel Monday at the Flagg gas station at Pacific Avenue and Colorado Street. But while Garabedian enjoys the lower gas prices, he said, buying food items for Thanksgiving dinner is even costlier, and he might not celebrate the holiday.

“It’s just too expensive,” he said.

“If everybody comes together and pitches in, then may be I’ll celebrate it.”


 VERONICA ROCHA covers public safety and the courts. She may be reached at (818) 637-3232 or by e-mail at veronica.rocha@latimes.com.

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