SAN DIEGO — Holiday travelers hit the road Wednesday in droves, clogging up portions of San Diego freeways and assuring the San Diego International Airport was humming with activity all day.
Drivers coming in and out of town for Thanksgiving added to the typical rush-hour congestion, with back-ups or stop-and-go traffic on Interstates 15, 805 and 5. Check conditions before you leave with FOX 5’s live traffic map.
At the airport, meanwhile, crowds came in waves Wednesday but there weren’t many signs of logistical snags. Airport officials said the day before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after the holiday account for two of their busiest times of the year.
About 60,000 people are expected to come and go each day, on average. People should arrive at least two hours early for domestic flights and three hours early for international travel, a spokesperson said.
Holiday travel is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels this season, with an estimated 53.4 million people going on Thanksgiving trips across the U.S., according to AAA.
But the holiday traffic was enough to keep resident Shannon Whitaker home.
“It was just complete bumper-to-bumper,” Whitaker said. “It almost took me 45 minutes to get to work. It usually takes me 15 minutes. I saw the traffic and I was like no, definitely staying local.”
If you’re driving, the auto club discourages people from trying to drive any time between 12 p.m. and 8 p.m. Wednesday, with the optimal time for after-work travelers coming after 9 p.m. Drivers who are headed out Thursday should try to leave before 11 a.m., with the worst time to drive coming between noon and 3 p.m., AAA says.
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California Highway Patrol also is beefing up its efforts starting Wednesday and running through Sunday night.
“During that time, all of our available officers are going to be out on the road looking for impaired drivers, distracted drivers, aggressive drivers, seatbelt violations and car seat violations,” CHP Public Information Officer Salvador Castro said. “Anything we can do to reduce the amount of deaths or amounts of DUIs on our highways.”
All the drivers hitting the road this week are also paying a premium at the pump. Earlier this month, California set a new high average cost for gasoline. In San Diego County, a gallon cost $4.66 on average ahead of the holiday.
Experts say that in addition to routine maintenance, gliding into your stops and avoiding jamming on the gas pedal for each start will help save gas. AAA also recommends avoiding excessive idling — not a feasible option for those sitting in pre-Thanksgiving gridlock Wednesday.
FOX 5’s Jaime Chambers and Kelsey Christensen contributed to this report.