7 things you need to know to survive Thanksgiving travel

Los Angeles freeway
More than 5 million Californians are expected to hit the road over the Thanksgiving holiday.
(Cheryl A. Guerrero / Los Angeles Times)

If you’re traveling during the Thanksgiving weekend, you expect crowds on the roads and at airports. Here’s are 7 things you need to know to survive the madness.

Survive? Well, yes. That’s because you’ll be one of 3.5 million Southern Californians predicted to be driving to Grandma’s house or somewhere else between Wednesday and Friday.

Or you may be one of almost 2 million passengers who were expected to pass through Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) between last Friday and next Monday.

Either way, delays on the roads and at airports are inevitable during the holiday weekend.


Here are some ways to make your travels smoother.

1. Keep a watch on the weather: LAX is predicted to be the busiest airport in the country, but that’s the least of your worries. A major storm expected to hit the East Coast from Virginia to Maine on Wednesday and Thursday could mean flight headaches for travelers across the country.

Accuweather says New England could receive 6 to 12 inches of snow starting Wednesday, the busiest travel day of the year.

Many airlines are allowing ticket holders to change their flight date -- going earlier or later -- without penalty, but flights may be packed.


Keep in touch with your airline (ask for text messages or or email alerts from your carrier) for up-to-date information on flights. If your destination is the Northeast and you plan to drive, Accuweather has compiled a city-by-city list of when you can expect to encounter the worst weather conditions.

2. Get an LAX pedestrian map: Do you know your way around LAX? Several airlines have changed terminals, and parking lots 3 and 4 are under constructions (though they remain open).

Some walkways and elevators have been shut or rerouted as LAX continues its massive make-over. You can view and download the map  “Walking Terminal to Terminal Routes During Construction” that shows the best ways to get around the airport. And arrive early for your flight to allow plenty of time to find your way.

3. Double-check your carry-on contents: Even if you think you know what’s allowed at Transportation Security Administration airport checkpoints, check the list to make sure you aren’t bringing forbidden  holiday goodies.

Jam, jelly, gravy, cranberry sauce or your favorite home-made salad dressing --  leave it home (unless you bring 3.4 ounces or less) if you’re planningn to carry it on unless it’s 3.4 ounces or less. And don’t even think about wrapped gifts or a bottle of wine in your hand luggage.

Consider too that hand-carried pies and cakes could slow you down; they may require additional screening, according to the TSA.

4. Double-check your carry-on size: No one wants to check luggage anymore, but make sure your carry-on bags don’t wind up costing you money as checked bags. Review the size and dimensions as well as the number of bags your airline will allow you to carry on board.

5. Try to work around traffic on Wednesday: You probably already know L.A. is bracing for the worst Wednesday road traffic in the nation.


If you can, avoid driving between 2 and 5 p.m., when delays may be the worst (3 to 5 p.m. being the worst of the worst time to travel), according to the INRIX Thanksgiving Traffic Forecast.

Portland, Ore.; San Francisco and Seattle, in that order, are predicted to be next in the worst-traffic lineup. Avoid driving in those cities from 3 to 4 p.m. if you want to try to avoid peak time for clogged roads. New York City comes in at fifth place with a suggested do-not-drive time from 3 to 5 p.m.

6. Fear not the price of gas: California’s gas prices aren’t as low as the national average ($2.81 a gallon nationally, down from $3.28 a year ago) but they are much lower than last year.

AAA’s Fuel Gauge shows that an average gallon of gas costs $3.09, compared with $3.56 a year ago in California. The price drop is likely to please the 5.65 million Californians who the Auto Club of Southern California says will be on the road this year.

7. Expect company at these top Thanksgiving destinations: Southern Californians are heading to Las Vegas, San Francisco, San Diego, Grand Canyon National Park, and Santa Barbara and the Central Coast, Auto Club says.

If you’re going to one of these destinations, make sure you book a hotel room in advance. The same goes for restaurants, especially if you’re hoping to have a relaxing turkey dinner without having to cook.

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