When will the heaviest traffic be?

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Traffic moves along the 110 Freeway in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022. AAA predicts that 54.6 million people will travel at least 50 miles from home in the U.S. this week, a 1.5% bump over Thanksgiving last year and only 2% less than in 2019. The auto club and insurance seller says nearly 49 million of those will travel by car, and 4.5 million will fly between Wednesday and Sunday. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

A year of record-breaking travel across southern California is anticipated to come to a close on a high, as nearly 10 million residents are expected to hit the roads and skies during the holiday season.

The Automobile Club of Southern California’s latest travel forecast, which was released on Sunday, projects that more than 9.5 million people will travel between Saturday, Dec. 23 and Monday, Jan. 1 — a 3% increase from last year and 2% increase from 2019.


Nationwide, AAA projects that about 115.2 million people will go 50 miles or more from home during the same stretch of time.

The vast majority of southern California travelers — roughly 8.5 million — are expected to drive to their holiday destination, according to AAA. Meanwhile, about 829,000 are anticipated to take a plane, and about 286,000 are likely to use other modes of transit like trains, buses or boats.

“With a new record for year-end travel among Southern Californians, we are expecting roads, airports and cruise ports to be very busy this month,” Jena Miller, the Auto Club’s vice president for travel products and services, said in a statement on Sunday. “Consumer demand for leisure travel has surged this year, and it appears that the momentum is set to carry on into 2024.”

In southern California, traffic congestion will likely be at its worst on Saturday, Dec. 27 along southbound Interstate 5 from Bakersfield to Los Angeles, according to projections from transportation data company, INRIX.

Wednesday, Dec. 23 is also predicted to be a busy travel day, INRIX says, with northbound Interstate 15 between San Diego and Interstate 10 likely to see heavy congestion.

For these busy travel days, AAA says the best times to hit the road in order to avoid the heaviest traffic periods are before lunchtime or after 7 p.m.

As for airplane travel, the busiest departure dates are likely to be between Thursday, Dec. 21 and Saturday, Dec. 23, according to a survey on holiday travel from The Vacationer. The days following Christmas — Tuesday, Dec. 26 and Wednesday, Dec. 27 — are also likely to be busy at domestic airports with people returning home after the holiday.

As with previous holiday seasons, AAA says that warm weather destinations, tourist hotspots and European cities will be the most popular destinations for travelers.

For southern California residents, San Diego will be one of the top spots for holiday vacationers, as well as Las Vegas, the central California coast, Palm Springs and the Grand Canyon.

With the upcoming travel season expected to be quite hectic, here are some tips AAA offered to ensure plans go smoothly for those leaving home during the holiday:

  • If traveling by car, make sure vehicle maintenance is up-to-date. This includes checking whether the vehicle’s tires and battery are in good condition.
  • If you are trying to arrive at your destination via car by a certain time, plan to leave home earlier than you would for a non-holiday trip, adding a cushion of time to account for any traffic that you may encounter.
  • Air travelers should plan to arrive at the airport at least two hours before departure of domestic flights. If you are traveling abroad, plan to arrive three hours before your flight. For those driving themselves to the airport, the Auto Club also recommends booking a reserved parking space ahead of time.
  • Use an airline’s app or website to check-in for any flights at home to avoid long lines at kiosks at the airport.

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