Blue skies and warm temperatures are forecast for Southern California this week as more travelers than last year are expected to hit the roads and the skies to be with family for the Thanksgiving Day holiday.
Some 43.6 million Americans are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home during the holiday weekend, an increase of .7 percent over the 43.3 million people who traveled last year, according to the Automobile Club of America.
Yet, while more are traveling, AAA said people are staying closer to home than previous years.
“Thanksgiving travel hit a decade low in 2008 when only 37.8 million Americans traveled,” said Robert Darbelnet, AAA’s president and chief executive officer. “Since that year we have seen a steady increase in the number of travelers taking to the roads and skies for the holiday.
“Americans continue to find ways to economize their budgets so they can gather around the holiday table to carve the turkey.”
The average distance traveled by Americans during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend is expected to be 588 miles, a drop of nearly 17 percent from last year when travelers planned to log 706 miles, AAA said.
Most travelers -- or 39.1 million -- will go by car, an increase of .6 percent over last year, AAA said. Those traveling by air is expected to drop from 3.2 million in 2011 to 3.14 this year.
The increase in overall travel marks the fourth straight year of growing holiday travelers since 2008 when Thanksgiving travel fell by 25 percent. The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, Nov. 21 to Sunday, Nov. 25.
About 3.37 million Southland residents are expected to vacation over the holiday weekend -- an increase of .6 percent over last year’s 3.35 million local travelers, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.
About 87 percent of travelers, or 2.93 million, are expected to travel by car -- a .5 percent increase over 2011.
Another 341,000 will fly -- a 1.8 percent decrease, and 105,000 will go by other means.
Nearly 1.8 million passengers will pass through Los Angeles International Airport this Thanksgiving, a modest increase of 0.3 percent over last Thanksgiving’s 1.786 million.
The Sunday after Thanksgiving, Nov. 25 -- not the traditional day before Thanksgiving -- is forecasted to be the busiest day of the holiday travel period. The other busiest days are expected to be the beginning and end of the 10-day travel period, Friday, Nov. 16, and Monday, Nov. 26.
LAX will be second to Chicago-O’Hare International Airport in terms of the number of passengers this Thanksgiving, officials said.
Passengers on flights between LAX and cities that are traditionally popular with Southern Californians -- such as San Francisco, Las Vegas, Chicago, New York and Boston -- may find those flights booked.
Travelers should expect busy terminals and full flights.
Also, on Wednesday, travelers could face delays as 1,000 airport employees, including wheelchair attendants, security officers, and baggage handlers, are expected to conduct up to a 2-hour long march along Century Boulevard to protest wages and benefits and the downturn in the nation’s economy.
“On some level it is going to be inconvenient to the public,” said Mark Gomez, a spokesman with the United Service Workers West. “But we’re hoping to make a big point.”
Airport police said they were aware of the planned demonstration and are working with Los Angeles police and other agencies to develop a plan that "will afford SEIU to exercise their First Amendment Rights; while also balancing the needs of passengers to get to their destination," said Sgt. Belinda Nettles, an airport police spokeswoman.
Inside the terminals, meanwhile, airport officials will add volunteer staff to help direct passengers to their departing flights and have officers on three-wheeled electronic bikes to patrol the terminals.
Outside, there will be extra patrols on motorcycles and in cars, some equipped with a so-called Rumbler device that emits a low-pitched signal with a vibration so that officers can get the attention of distracted motorists more quickly.
The news comes as Southern California is expected to see a clearing pattern over the next week after a storm.
The low deserts are expected to see temperatures in the 80s through the week. Valley temperatures could see temperatures near 80, while downtown and the beaches could see temperatures in the 70s.
“Turkey Day looks lovely for Southern California,” said NBC4 weather forecaster Carl Bell. “We’ll be the envy of the country, as always.”