Holiday travel season underway; transportation officials urge travelers to plan ahead


With Friday marking the official beginning of the holiday travel season, federal transportation officials are urging people heading to airports to plan ahead, arrive early and bring a dose of patience.

Transportation Security Administration officials said they expect to screen more than 1.9 million passengers at Los Angeles International Airport during the travel season, which lasts until Jan. 2.

The busiest travel days at LAX and airports nationally are expected to be Dec. 21-22, as well as Dec. 28-29, according to the TSA.

“We have been planning for the end-of-the-year holiday travel rush at LAX for the past several months, ensuring that we have all of our security assets in place to ensure a smooth and efficient screening process for all travelers,” TSA Federal Security Director at LAX Jason Pantages said in a statement. “Travelers can expect to see checkpoints staffed and lanes open. We encourage the traveling public to take a few minutes and prepare for the security screening process to help keep our operations efficient and smooth.”

The security agency expects to screen 774,000 passengers at LAX between Sunday and Dec. 23. The following week, more than 791,000 passengers are anticipated at LAX screening locations.

TSA officials issued standard tips for airport travelers approaching security screening stations, such as removing all items from pockets and ensuring they are not carrying any prohibited items, such as liquids exceeding 3.4 ounces, knives or other weapons.

Officials also said TSA PreCheck passengers can use California mobile driver’s licenses at airport security stations. The mobile licenses can be downloaded through the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

Travelers were also urged to avoid wrapping presents they plan to travel with, and to ensure they don’t attempt to carry on prohibited food items, such as syrup, wine or champagne.

The Auto Club of Southern California is predicting that 9.5 million SoCal residents will be traveling for the holidays between Dec. 23 and Jan. 1. The vast majority of them, roughly 8.3 million, are expected to drive, but 829,000 are expected to fly during that period, according to the Auto Club.

The top destinations for Southern California travelers are expected to be Las Vegas, San Diego, the Central Coast, Palm Springs/Coachella Valley and the Grand Canyon.

Citing research by transportation research firm INRIX, the Auto Club predicted that the busiest stretch of freeway during the travel period will be the southbound Golden State (5) Freeway between Bakersfield and Los Angeles on the evening of Dec. 27. Dec. 23 is also expected to be a busy travel day, with the northbound 15 Freeway between San Diego and Interstate 10 expected to be congested.

The Auto Club recommended that travelers hit the road before lunchtime or after 7 p.m. to avoid the worst of the traffic.

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