Thanksgiving weekend travel is expected to hit its highest level since 2007, thanks to a strengthening economy and increasing consumer confidence.
More than 5.8 million Californians are projected to travel 50 miles or more this holiday, a 3.1 percent increase over last year, according to AAA Northern California.
“Californians are eager to travel and turn this four-day weekend into the most traveled holiday in the past nine years,” said Cynthia Harris, AAA spokeswoman.
The weather on Thanksgiving Day is expected to be dry in the Fresno area, but storm systems could bring rain to Northern and Central California on Wednesday and again Friday and Saturday.
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On Friday “the best chance (for rain) would be in the Sierras around Yosemite,” said Brian Ochs, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Hanford.
Don’t let the rain dampen your drive. Gas prices are falling.
“We can thank global oil production that continues to outpace rising demand for the low prices,” said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy.com.
Before you hit the road, jump on a plane or board a bus, read on for what to expect and tips for traveling:
On the road
What to expect: Car travel accounts for more than 89 percent of all transportation during the Thanksgiving holiday, leading planes, buses and trains, and boats. More than 5 million Californians are expected to drive this Thanksgiving.
Gas prices in most states have fallen this week compared to a week ago, according to national gas price checker GasBuddy.com. In Fresno, the average price recorded Monday was $2.63, but some local gas stations were selling at a low of $2.15 a gallon. The national average price per gallon is expected to hit $2.11. Last year, the national average was $2.05 a gallon.
What to do: California Highway Patrol Officer Traci Gallian reminds drivers to be patient and to slow down when driving. Highways will be congested. Give yourself time to drive, and buckle up, Gallian said. Officers will be looking for speeding vehicles, intoxicated drivers and seat belt violations.
AAA expects to rescue more than 370,000 motorists over the weekend, primarily for dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts. Drivers are reminded to check their car batteries, tire conditions and prepare vehicles for winter driving. Don’t forget to check windshield wipers and fluids.
In the sky
What to expect: Airlines for America, an airline trade organization, projects a 2.5 percent increase in passenger activity for the 12-day Thanksgiving travel period through Nov. 29. Most airlines at Fresno Yosemite International Airport report being at or near capacity, said spokeswoman Vikkie Calderon.
AAA reports about 626,000 Californians will fly, an increase of 1.6 percent compared to last year.
What to do: Peak early morning departures at the airport may extend security screening wait times. Airline ticket counters close for passenger check-in as early as 45 minutes before a flight departs. Arrive early. Check your flight status on airline websites, mobile apps and by phone.
Remember the 3-1-1 rule for traveling with liquids, gels and aerosols in carry-on baggage: 3-ounce bottles or less, one quart-sized, clear plastic zip-top bag, and one bag per passenger.
Samsung Galaxy Note 7 devices are banned. Passengers may not carry the device or have it in carry-on or checked baggage.
By rail or bus
What to expect: Amtrak added extra seats and expanded schedules in anticipation of a surge in holiday travelers during what it calls the “busiest travel period of the year.”
More than 190,000 Californians will travel by train, boat or other method of transportation, an increase of 1.1 percent compared to last year, AAA said.
The busiest travel days are the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday following. Morning trains typically have more seats available than those in the afternoon or evening, according to Amtrak in Oakland.
Amtrak added more seats to its Capitol Corridor route, which started Tuesday and to the San Joaquins and Pacific Surfliner routes which both start Wednesday, all running through Sunday. Amtrak also increased the number of reserved Thruway buses on its busiest California routes.
What to do: Tickets sell out quickly, especially for bus service. Book early. Arrive at least 45 minutes early especially if picking up tickets. Travelers are allowed two bags and two carry-on bags weighing up to 150 pounds for free. Make sure to carry photo identification.