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Traveling for Thanksgiving? So is everyone else. Here’s how to make the trip bearable

The crowded roads and airports experts predict for the Thanksgiving holiday may make you miss the recession.

After peaking in 2005, holiday travel took a big hit in the United States during the economic downturn, but it’s been on the rebound since about 2011. This year will hit its biggest numbers in 13 years, AAA spokeswoman Marie Montgomery said.

The Auto Club expects about 4.2 million people in Southern California to take off between Wednesday, Nov. 21, and the following Sunday, with the bulk of travelers, 3.6 million, going by car, Montgomery said. That’s 5.1 percent more than over the 2017 holiday.

Some 476,000 people are expected to fly out of Southern California airports; both in California and nationwide air travel is likely to be up over 2017 as well.

Has Ontario International Airport been your secret weapon for getting out of town with a little less hassle? Now under new management, the airport has added flights and therefore more guests.

This Thanksgiving, about 162,000 people are expected to pass through Ontario’s gates, about a 5 percent increase from last year, said Atif Elkadi, the airport’s deputy executive director.

RELATED: 39 ideas for where to eat a Thanksgiving meal in Southern California

For those who are driving locally or in-state, California Highway Patrol officials recommend checking your route carefully, since wildfires have parts of Pacific Coast Highway and the 101 freeway closed, meaning more traffic on alternate highways, Officer Siara Lund said.

If the holiday travel crowds make you long for a stiff drink or a puff of a joint, just say no unless someone else is driving. Lund said Los Angeles County CHP officers made 208 DUI arrests over the 2017 Thanksgiving weekend – and even though cannabis is now legal, being high counts as impairment when driving.

Finally, when you just can’t stand the traffic or your relatives are making you crazy, do what Costa Mesa resident and travel blogger Maggie Alexander does: plan your next Thanksgiving overseas.

After discovering that flights and accommodations are cheaper because most Americans stay in the U.S., Alexander and her husband started taking their now 7-year-old daughter to places such as Colombia, Panama and Taiwan.

This year they’ll go to Hong Kong to see the sights and take a cooking class to learn to make dumplings, she said.

Related: Holiday Food: 15 baking tips from three popular Southern California bakery chefs

Here are some more tips from AAA, CHP, airport officials and travel bloggers to help your family get through a holiday trip.


The day before a holiday and regular morning or evening commute hours are the worst times to head out; “the earlier the better” is usually a good rule to follow, says AAA’s Montgomery.

Plan with navigation sites and apps, but don’t forget to check and Caltrans Quickmaps for up-to-date information on crashes and road construction, CHP’s Lund says.

Expect to make multiple stops so you’re not stuck in the car all day, and bring a beach ball, Frisbee, bubbles or other rest stop activities, suggests Colleen Lanin, who blogs at


Arrive at the airport at least two hours early, but first check with your airline for any delays or changes, Ontario’s Elkadi says.

Bring an e-reader loaded with books or a tablet to watch movies on a long flight; for kids, a square inflatable travel pillow can turn their seat into a bed so they can stretch out, says Alexander, the blogger.

With kids

If you have a baby or toddler, bring twice as many bottles or diapers than you think you’ll need. That way if your plane is stuck on the tarmac or your car is caught in a back-up, you won’t have a wet, hungry child, Lanin says.

Bring a variety of snacks portioned out in small containers so kids feel like they’re getting a new treat every so often, and bring something they don’t normally have, like candy, that may stave off a meltdown, Lanin suggests.

Source: Orange County Register

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