With the disruptions of the pandemic receding, this year’s Thanksgiving travel season is shaping up to be a busy one. Nationally, it’s predicted to be the third-busiest since AAA started keeping track in 2000, with 54.6 million people journeying at least 50 miles from home. Here in L.A., it looks to be even more hectic — the Automobile Club of Southern California projects 4.5 million locals will travel during the Thanksgiving period, a 2.5% increase from last year and an all-time record for the holiday. We’re thankful that so many people will have the opportunity to spend this special time with faraway family members and friends, but as masses of travelers take to the roads, rails and skies, we also want to make sure everyone stays safe. To help keep chaos and crime at bay, LAAPOA encourages you to be prepared and stay vigilant as you head to your holiday festivities.
Before You Go
All that staying close to home over the past several years may mean your travel routines are a little rusty. Remember that there are a number of precautions you should take before even stepping out the door to ensure your trip gets off to a smooth start and avoid being targeted by criminals in your absence.
- If you’re flying, especially if you haven’t done so in a while, refresh your memory about how to pack safely by reviewing the TSA’s “What Can I Bring?” list and guidelines for transporting Thanksgiving foods. Make sure to leave firearms at home — seizures of guns at airport security checkpoints (87% of them loaded) at airport security checkpoints are at record highs this year, and the vast majority of violators claim they simply forgot they had their weapons with them.
- Secure your home, including locking all doors and windows, placing lights on timers, canceling deliveries and having a trusted neighbor check in.
- Avoid sharing the details of your absence on social media, or to taxi or rideshare drivers.
- Stay up to date on traffic or weather conditions that may affect your trip, and allow plenty of time to reach your destination.
At the Airport
AAA reports that air travel is up nearly 8% over 2021, with 4.5 million Americans flying to their Thanksgiving destinations this year. In SoCal the increase is even higher at 9%, and LAX is bracing for its heaviest Thanksgiving traffic since before the pandemic, with about 200,000 travelers expected each day November 17–28. Amid the crowds and confusion, be sure to pack your patience and keep your wits about you.
- If you haven’t been to LAX recently, you may encounter some surprises as the airport continues to update and expand. Consult flylax.com for the latest updates to ensure you know where you’re going. The airport now offers the ability to prebook parking spaces online at parking.flylax.com and is urging people to do so, as spots in the economy lots and central terminal garages are likely to sell out. Travelers also are asked to consider using alternative transportation, such as the LAX FlyAway, or to get dropped off at the LAX Economy Parking Facility, which offers a free shuttle to the terminals. Passengers flying on United and Southwest can now use the free LAX Fast Lane program, which allows travelers in Terminals 1, 7 and 8 to reserve a 15-minute window to go through security checkpoints in a faster, dedicated lane.
- Provide yourself with extra time to prevent stress. LAX strongly suggests that travelers be at the airport two hours before boarding time for domestic flights and three hours before boarding time for international flights. Adding more lead time is recommended on peak days based on current traffic conditions, which you can monitor in real time 24/7 on Twitter @flylaxstats.
- Make sure your luggage is well-labeled with your name and contact information, and keep it in hand or in sight at all times. Don’t agree to watch a stranger’s luggage or transport any items on someone else’s behalf. Report unattended baggage, or any other questionable objects or activities you witness.
- Keep your wallet and boarding pass in a safe place, and be sure to put away your ID as soon as you’re through security. Losing your license is bad; losing your passport is even worse. Don’t risk leaving it sitting on a seat or on a shop’s counter. It could make it very difficult to get back home.
On the Road
Those staying on the ground this season are still likely to face crowds, and L.A. highways are forecast to be among the nation’s busiest. The Auto Club predicts 3.9 million Southern California drivers will hit the road for Thanksgiving — with another 109,000 people going by bus, rail or ship — and warns that travelers should prepare for more than double normal traffic delays at peak times.
- If traveling by car, make sure your vehicle maintenance is up to date and your tires and battery are in good condition.
- Don’t drive when distracted, fatigued or intoxicated. Never text while behind the wheel and only use your cellphone in a hands-free manner. If you’re too tired to focus, consider pulling over in a safe place for a nap or find the nearest hotel to get a good night’s rest.
- Auto and catalytic converter thefts are at record highs, so make sure your vehicle is as secure as possible, especially if you’re parking long-term at a hotel or in an unfamiliar neighborhood. Choose a well-lit spot in a heavily traveled area, lock all doors and windows, and don’t leave any valuables inside, especially not if they are easily visible to people walking past.
Throughout Your Journey
It’s important to always be aware of your surroundings, especially at a time when large areas where many people congregate, such as airports and shopping malls, are most susceptible to being targets of terrorist attacks or mass shootings, as well as opportunistic criminals looking for targets who are rushed and distracted.
- If you hear a loud noise or any other sound indicating violence, move away from it and go to a quiet and safe place, like a bathroom. Familiarize yourself with how to handle an active-shooter situation, and make sure you follow any instructions provided by law enforcement.
- Stay awake and vigilant as much as possible, especially if you’re traveling alone.
- Above all, be patient. Becoming agitated or aggressive won’t help, and can even endanger you and your fellow travelers. Keeping a cool head is the best way to reach your destination safely.
As always, LAAPOA members and our fellow peace officers across the nation will be working tirelessly and selflessly around the clock to make holiday travel and celebrations as smooth and secure as possible. We hope that the public will be mindful of the many ways in which law enforcement goes above and beyond to protect our communities — not only during this season, but each and every day of the year. We are thankful for the opportunity to serve, and for everyone who continues to support our mission. Happy Thanksgiving!