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Thanksgiving travel by Southern Californians expected to increase

The Auto Club forecasts that 3.3 million people will take off for the holiday weekend, a 4.1% rise over last year.

November 19, 2011|By Hugo Martín, Los Angeles Times
  • A young traveler waiting for his mother in the car rental line plays a video game to pass the time during last year's Thanksgiving holiday rush at John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana. The Auto Club of Southern California expects that 386,000 Southland residents will fly this year, 1.9% increase over 2010.
A young traveler waiting for his mother in the car rental line plays a video… (Mark Boster, Los Angeles…)

Southern Californians plan to travel in bigger numbers this Thanksgiving holiday over last year, according to a forecast by the Auto Club of Southern California, a reversal of recent travel trends.

The number of travelers is expected to reach 3.3 million over the holiday weekend, a 4.1% increase over last year, according to the Auto Club's annual forecast released Friday.

Despite higher fuel costs, 86% of Southern Californians who plan to travel for the holiday will go by car, also a 4.1% increase over 2010, according to the Auto Club. An additional 386,000 plan to fly, a 1.9% increase over last year. And 91,000 plan to take a train, bus or other mode of transportation.

The overall increase marks the first growth in holiday travel numbers this year, a sign that Southern Californians may be ready to spend on vacations again.

"Many Southland residents continue to have financial concerns, but more people have decided this year that despite those concerns, they will celebrate Thanksgiving with a vacation to create lasting memories with family and friends," said Filomena Andre, the Auto Club's vice president for travel.

For the last two holidays, the Auto Club predicted declining travel numbers.

For this year's Labor Day weekend, the Auto Club predicted 2.32 million Southern Californians would travel, a 2.6% decrease from last year. For the Fourth of July holiday, nearly 2.9 million were expected to travel, a 2.3% drop from last year, according to the Automobile Club.

The increases forecast for Thanksgiving travel among Southern Californians mirror the rate of growth for travelers statewide and nationwide.

The increase in driving trips for Thanksgiving comes despite higher fuel costs in Southern California. In the Los Angeles-Long Beach area, a gallon of regular self-serve gasoline costs $3.82 — 66 cents higher than last year at this time, according to the Auto Club. In San Diego, the price is $3.80 per gallon, 64 cents higher than last year.

To afford holiday travel, a recent survey by the travel website Orbitz found, 68% of U.S. travelers plan to spend less on gifts, or forgo gifts altogether, during the holiday season.

For Southern Californians, the top holiday destinations include Las Vegas, San Diego, San Francisco, the Grand Canyon and Disneyland, according to the Auto Club.

hugo.martin@latimes.com

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