Wages have increased, unemployment keeps dropping and Americans who in past years may have stayed home instead of flying to Aunt Darlene’s for her homemade turkey stuffing are now willing to spend a little more to visit loved ones over the Thanksgiving holiday.
According to AAA, 54.3 million Americans are expecting to travel for Thanksgiving, a jump of 4.8 percent from last year and the highest number of travelers in more than a decade.
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“Consumers have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season: higher wages, more disposable income and rising levels of household wealth,” Bill Sutherland, AAA Travel senior vice president, said in a release. “This is translating into more travelers kicking off the holiday season with a Thanksgiving getaway, building on a positive year for the travel industry.”
Among those heading out will be an estimated 48.5 million braving traffic on roadways, 4.3 million going by air and 1.5 million by other modes such as train or cruise, AAA says. All mark an increase from 2017.
The last time the country saw holiday travel volume this high was in 2005.
Bakersfield is ordinarily a scant two-hour drive from Los Angeles, but those heading south may find the trek to the City of Angels more like a highway to hell if they leave Wednesday afternoon.
From 1 p.m. into the evening the highways are expected to be swarming with motorists, said Officer Robert Rodriguez, spokesman for the California Highway Patrol’s Bakersfield office.
“For those who are planning on traveling, allow plenty of extra time to reach your destination,” he said. “You may not want to travel during peak times.”
The worst travel time in Los Angeles will be from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, with driving times estimated to be twice as long as usual, AAA says. The worst spot is expected to be Interstate 5 south from Exit 79 to 54 B.
The best days to travel are Thanksgiving Day, Friday or Saturday, according to AAA. Increased travel should be expected on Sunday as people begin making their way home.
Rodriguez advised those braving the road to familiarize themselves with the area they’re heading to and be aware weather conditions can quickly change while crossing mountain passes.
Depending on the length of the trip, Rodriguez advised travelers to bring water, a cellphone, flashlight, blankets, some snacks and make sure their vehicle has a full tank before getting on the highway. Also, vehicles should be road trip-ready with tires in good condition and all needed maintenance work completed.
And no matter how long the trip, it’s extremely important all occupants remain buckled up or secured in properly installed child safety seats throughout the duration, Rodriguez said.
Also, starting 6 p.m. Wednesday the CHP’s “maximum enforcement period” goes into effect. Officers will be out in force looking for impaired or distracted drivers, as well as cracking down on speeders and those driving recklessly.
“Our main priority is to get you to your destination safely,” Rodriguez said.
The enforcement period lasts until 11:59 p.m. Sunday.
So save the brews until you’ve reached your destination, drive the speed limit and time the trip to avoid as many frustrating backups as possible. Studies indicate stress can have an impact on digestion, so it’s possible that turkey will go down a lot easier the clearer your route.