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Holiday travel is expected to be busier this year; experts advise to plan for airport lines and traffic congestion

Angel Russell

Thanksgiving traffic is seeing an uptick as families throughout the country plan to reunite now that there are coronavirus vaccines available.

Holiday travel is expected to be busier this year on the road and up in the air.

Courtney Pene with SLO County Regional Airport said they are finally rebounding in travelers after last year’s dismal numbers.

In November 2020, the SLO airport saw about 22,000 passengers. This year, they anticipate being back to pre-pandemic numbers, with more than 45,000 planning to board an aircraft.

“Most of our flights on the airlines are booked, up to about 100% through the end of the year," Pene said. "So it’s going to be a busy place at the airport, but it’s exciting.”

Pene said flights and airports throughout the nation plan to be bustling, and she recommends arriving a few hours early, even at local airports, to ensure you get through the lines in time.

“You do need to remember to wear a face covering," Pene said. "Per federal law, everyone inside the terminal and inside the aircraft needs to wear a face mask throughout your entire flight.”

With COVID-19 still a threat during the busy holiday season, the SLO Airport has re-opened their onsite COVID-19 testing facility this week, and rapid testing is available as an option.

“We encourage all individuals to pre-register just because it takes less time," Pene said. "But if you need to walk up or drive up, you are welcome to do that.”

American Automobile Association (AAA) travel experts say road traffic will be at an all-time high, with millions in California planning on driving to their family gatherings.

Cat Coplin is anticipating hitting congestion on her drive to see family in Bakersfield.

“It doesn’t bother me," Coplin said. " As long as I get home before dark!”

Coplin said this holiday season feels a lot more normal than last year.

“I see a huge difference in this year to last year," Coplin said. "I think people have relaxed a little this year. ”

AAA experts say Wednesday evening will be gridlock on many major highways, and the best window of opportunity to hit the road is on Thanksgiving day itself.

Angel Russell is a former KCBX News reporter who started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing guitar and piano.
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