Holiday travelers eye three-day weekends
Last-minute fliers may find that leaving from John Wayne Airport is more expensive.
By Amanda Pennington
With Christmas and New Year's Day both falling on Mondays this holiday season, Southern Californians seem to be planning to take advantage of the long weekends by heading out of town.
According to the Automobile Club of Southern California, 5.5 million people will be taking off for the holidays over the next couple weeks, which represents a small increase over last year's numbers.
There's an opportunity to make an easy three-day weekend out of both holidays, Auto Club spokeswoman Elaine Beno said.
Although about 80% of the 5.5 million travelers will be getting behind the wheel, John Wayne Airport is expecting plenty of passengers and will employ a line-management plan starting Thursday to help people get through more easily.
"I think everything has been going smoothly this week so far. I haven't heard of any extra impacts on traffic," John Wayne spokeswoman Jenny Wedge said. "People are probably getting out earlier in the week to make for a smoother trip."
Top travel destinations this year are Las Vegas, San Diego and local mountain resorts, Beno said.
Unless hitting the road, people who have not yet made travel reservations may be taking a big hit at the bank, but many hotels and airlines are still accepting reservations.
People buying last-minute tickets for Friday from John Wayne Airport to Las Vegas will pay almost three times as much as they would for weekend travel in mid-January, according to a search on http://www.orbitz.com. The online travel search engine had the cheapest round-trip ticket at $259 and the most expensive at more than $2,000.
The extreme high may be due to some airlines only having first-class seats available on flights, Costa Mesa Auto Club travel agent Mary Doyle said.
Doyle suggested flying on Christmas Day or New Year's Day in order to find a cheaper fare. She also said people who plan to fly should check the difference in ticket prices leaving from Los Angeles International Airport rather than John Wayne.
"Usually there's a cost difference, and last-minute people are probably going to go with LAX," Doyle said.
But with a larger airport usually comes longer lines, so if the passenger opts for convenience over price, they're likely to see the heaviest traffic at John Wayne Airport on Thursday and Friday and Jan. 2 and 3.
If a passenger is playing Santa on their trip and traveling with a load of gifts, make sure to keep them unwrapped regardless if the goodies are packed in checked or carry-on luggage, Wedge said.
Wedge suggested bringing a roll of Christmas wrapping paper along on the trip.
Going somewhere for New Year's Eve and planning to bring the bubbly? Liquids still can't be taken in carry-on luggage unless they measure less than three ounces and are in a quart-sized plastic bag.
But unless it's a special bottle, it might be best to buy it after landing, as the Transportation Security Administration is advising passengers to not pack any fragile or breakable items in checked baggage.
Wedge advised passengers to arrive at the airport two hours ahead of the scheduled departure to leave ample time to park, check in and get through security. Because of the season, she also said to make sure there are no delays or cancellations due to inclement weather at their destination.
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