The Thanksgiving travel rush is getting underway, and more than 54 million Americans are expected to travel 50 miles or more this week.
AAA is expecting record-breaking Thanksgiving week travel on the Central Coast and in Southern California.
Many people got an early start to avoid traffic or long lines at the airport as millions of Californians hit the roads or took to the skies to reach their Thanksgiving destination.
“I had my son and his fiancé from Oregon that flew into the San Luis Obispo Airport and my nephew and his fiancé that flew into the Santa Barbara Airport. They came in on Friday to avoid all the craziness,” said Santa Maria resident Rebecca Garcia.
The Thanksgiving travel rush is just beginning, meaning freeways and airports are about to get even more crowded.
“We do believe that Wednesday is going to be the busiest day, especially on the roads,” said AAA spokesperson Anlleyn Venegas.
If you’re driving on the day before Thanksgiving, AAA recommends getting an early or a late start to avoid the busiest hours between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.
The Automobile Club of Southern California predicts that 4.5 million people will travel 50 miles or more, with 85 percent hitting the road. These numbers include San Luis Obispo County and everywhere south.
“We do think that this is gonna be an all-time record for this holiday,” Venegas said.
Travel experts say that many people couldn’t afford to travel over the summer with record high gas prices, meaning that people are making up for it now and hitting the road this Thanksgiving.
“Now that gas prices are still going down, this is the best opportunity for them to take those trips that they’ve been planning since the beginning of the year,” Venegas explained.
AAA says that gas prices could spike by as much as 20 cents per gallon as demand rises this week.
Despite high prices, many are thankful to be able to visit loved ones this Thanksgiving.
“I’m so happy because we have a small family,” Garcia said. “What actually brought us together was my youngest son having a little baby girl Thanksgiving time, so it was a perfect time for all the family to come down to see the addition to our family and spend Thanksgiving together.”
AAA is urging drivers to make sure their vehicles are in good condition before they hit the road, adding that they are expecting to respond to 50,000 service calls across southern and central California this Thanksgiving.