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Plan your Thanksgiving travel to avoid L.A.'s worst holiday traffic times and the worst time to drive to LAX

Plan your Thanksgiving travel to avoid L.A.'s worst holiday traffic times and the worst time to drive to LAX
AAA says the worst time for Thanksgiving travelers to get on the road in the greater Los Angeles area will be between 2:30 and 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. (Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Welcome to the Thanksgiving traffic crush. You and more than 54 million Americans will be traveling this season, the highest number of holiday travelers in more than a decade, according to forecasters at AAA.

Between Nov. 21 and 25, 48.5 million will drive at least 50 miles from home; 4.27 million leisure travelers will fly; and 1.48 million will travel by train, bus or cruise ship.

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Road trippers

If you’re going to be on the road, know that drivers in San Francisco, New York City and Boston “will see the largest delays – nearly quadruple normal drive times,” AAA said.

Other tips for drivers in the L.A. area from AAA and INRIX, which provides global mobility analytics:

--Plan ahead to avoid the worst traffic. The worst time to get on the road in the greater Los Angeles area will be between 2:30 and 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.

--You can expect the worst traffic tie-up in Southern California on the 5 Freeway, between Oceanside and California 1 (Pacific Coast Highway). Expect your drive in that area to take twice as long as usual.

The best times to be on the road will be Thanksgiving Day, and the following Friday or Saturday. Be prepared for gas prices to be the highest in four years, AAA said. You can track prices, depending on where you’re going, at AAA’s Gas Prices and GasBuddy.

Fliers

AAA estimates fewer than 5 million American leisure travelers will fly over Thanksgiving. TSA, which looks at different metrics in its forecasts, is expecting more than 25 million passengers at airport screening checkpoints from Nov. 16-Nov. 26. The number represents a 5% increase over 2017.

Busiest travel days at the airport will be Nov. 16 and Nov. 21, with 2.6 million passengers and crew expected each day; and the Sunday after Thanksgiving, when more than 2.7 million travelers are expected to be flying home.

TSA typically screens 2.1 million passengers on an average weekday.

Things you can do to make your trip to the airport go easier:

--Leave plenty of time to get to the airport, park the car, return a rental car and/or check you luggage. TSA recommends at least an hour earlier for domestic flights and two hours earlier for international flights.

--Pack your carry-on bags carefully. You don’t want to hold up security lines because you brought prohibited items. Review the list of what you cannot put in carry-on and in checked bags.

--Think about joining or renewing PreCheck, which streamlines the screening process. It costs $85 and is good for five years.

--Passengers who have disabilities and/or other medical conditions can call TSA in advance to know what will be expected when they go through screening. Call the TSA Cares helpline at (855) 787-2227 at least 72 hours prior to flying.

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Thanksgiving destinations

Based on AAA’s bookings, the top 10 Thanksgiving destinations for 2018 are:

1. Orlando, Fla.

2. New York City

3. Anaheim

4. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

6. Cancun, Mexico

7. Dallas/Fort Worth

8. Honolulu

9. Washington, D.C.

10. Miami

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