Driven by low gasoline prices and high levels of consumer confidence, a record number of Californians are expected to travel this holiday period.
“Over 12 million (Californians) in total, and over 10 million will be driving,” said Cynthia Harris, AAA’s Northern California spokeswoman.
With large numbers of drivers on the road, the California Highway Patrol asks that commuters plan ahead for safe trips.
“Just leave plenty of time – that’s probably our biggest thing,” CHP spokesman Axel Reyes said. “We see people just rushing to where they’re going; they become frustrated. When you have a lot of traveling, you have a lot of traffic.”
When you have a lot of traveling, you have a lot of traffic.
CHP spokesman Axel Reyes
The CHP recommends that drivers plan ahead, check their vehicles before they leave, and in case of an emergency, makes sure to carry enough money and have a backup plan.
“We’ll be out there – it is part of our maximum enforcement period during the holidays – we’ll have as many officers as we can out there patrolling the roadways,” Reyes said. “But we also depend on the public out there to be smart.
“Overall, we just want everyone to enjoy their weekend,” he said.
A storm system is expected to come through the Central Valley on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, said Jim Andersen, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Hanford.
The system will be colder with less moisture than the Dec. 21-22 storm system, Andersen said. “However, any rain that falls means there’s going to be wet roads, and we want to make sure people drive safe,” he said.
Snowfall is expected in the Sierra Nevada down to about 2,500 feet, according to the National Weather Service.
“If you are traveling into the higher elevations, it’s best to carry snow chains, cables,” Andersen said.
While Amtrak expects to be busy this holiday period, it does not anticipate being as busy as during the Thanksgiving holiday.
“We’ll look at the reservations and see how they’re faring for Christmas, since it’s spread out over a longer period of time, unlike Thanksgiving,” Amtrak spokeswoman Vernae Graham said. “We’ll add additional cars, but nothing nearly like adding 700 seats on San Joaquin trains for Thanksgiving.”
For a trouble-free trip, Amtrak recommends travelers book their trips early, arrive at the station well before their train departs and check online at Amtrak.com for the latest status updates on their train.
In air travel, more than 965,000 Californians are expected to fly to their holiday destination – a 0.4 percent increase from last year, AAA said.
International airlines have increased flights from Guadalajara, Mexico, to Fresno to accommodate the increased number of travelers during the holiday period, said Vikkie Calderon, a Fresno Yosemite International Airport spokeswoman.
“Volaris has added a second Saturday flight, and Aeromexico has transitioned from a four-day-a-week operation to a daily service,” Calderon said. Aeromexico’s daily service will be in effect until Jan. 20.
Aeromexico will provide daily service from Fresno to Mexico until Jan. 20.
Both airlines together will offer a daily combined seat capacity of more than 360 people from Fresno to Guadalajara, except for Saturday when seat capacity reaches more than 540 passengers.
Domestic air carriers are expected to remain busy as well. “Most of the airlines are expecting to be near or at capacity this holiday travel season,” Calderon said.
The flight adjustments this December are expected to contribute to a record performance this year for international passenger traffic at Fresno Yosemite airport.
For a seamless trip, Fresno Yosemite advises travelers to arrive at least two hours prior to their scheduled take-off.
“Most of the airlines start boarding at least 30 minutes prior to their scheduled flight departure,” Calderon said. “That means the passenger should be already checked in with the airline, should be through security screening and should be at the gate 30 minutes before their flight departs.”
Fresno Yosemite recommends passengers familiarize themselves with the Transportation Security Administration’s prohibited items lists, as well as their air carrier’s checked-in and carry-on bag policies.