Holiday Motorists Will Need Patience

For the second year in a row, an all-time record number of Southern Californians are projected to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.

The Auto Club predicts 4.6 million Southern Californians will travel during the Thanksgiving holiday period this year – a 3% increase from last year’s record number of travelers and a 3.5% increase from 2019, the last Thanksgiving holiday before the pandemic.

Nationwide, AAA is projecting this Thanksgiving to be the third busiest on record, with 55.4 million holiday travelers expected compared to 58.6 million in 2005 and 56 million in 2019.

The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as the five days from Wednesday, Nov. 22 to Sunday, Nov. 26.

By the numbers

SoCal Holiday Motorists to Set All-Time Record

“Thanksgiving is one of the more popular holidays for people to travel to see family and friends so they can take part in annual traditions like turkey dinners and Black Friday shopping,” said Jenna Miller, the Auto Club’s vice president for travel products and services. “Travel demand has been strong all year, and AAA’s Thanksgiving travel forecast reflects people’s ongoing desire to get away and spend time with their loved ones.”

Top Destinations

Warm weather destinations, theme parks, and cruise port cities will be among the most popular destinations this holiday season f. Nationally, AAA expects Florida cities, New York City, and Hawaii to be among the top U.S. destinations and internationally, some top destinations will include Cancun, Punta Cana, and European cities like Rome, Paris and London.

Locally, the top five destinations for Southern Californians will be:

  1. Las Vegas
  2. San Diego
  3. Santa Barbara/Central Coast
  4. Grand Canyon
  5. Mexico cruises and resorts

Gas Prices

Southern Californians who drive to their holiday destinations will be getting some relief at the pump compared to last year when filling up for their getaways. Gas prices are averaging about 30 cents a gallon less than this time last year and have been continuously dropping since October, with most local metro areas averaging less than $5.25 a gallon. To find the cheapest gas prices closest to your location, use the AAA Mobile app, and visit to find the average gas prices at your destination or calculate the estimated gas cost for your Thanksgiving trip.

Travel Tips

If traveling by automobile, make sure your vehicle maintenance is up-to-date and your tires and battery are in good condition. AAA expects to respond to more than 90,000 calls for help in California over the Thanksgiving weekend.   If you need some help getting your vehicle road trip ready, visit to find a reputable AAA-Approved Auto Repair facility near you.

Air travelers should plan to arrive at the airport at least two hours before domestic flights and three hours ahead of time for international departures. The Auto Club recommends people who drive themselves to the airport to reserve a parking space to make sure you have one, download your airline’s app and check-in for your flight at home to avoid long lines at kiosks in the terminal.

Busy Roads

According to the transportation analytics firm INRIX, Wednesday, Nov. 22 in the afternoon and evening will be the busiest time for Southland freeways. The most impacted drive on that afternoon and evening will be I-5 North between Los Angeles and Bakersfield, which is projected to take 88% longer than normal with a three-hour travel time. Other heavily impacted routes will be I-15 South between I-10 and San Diego on the afternoon of Sunday, Nov. 26, and I-5 South between Bakersfield and Los Angeles on the afternoon of Friday, Nov. 24. All outbound freeways are likely to be congested on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons before Thanksgiving, so holiday motorists should expect longer travel times during those periods and plan to leave early.

Image Sources

  • Thanksgiving in So Cal: AAASoCal
  • Traffic: Shutterstock