Nearly 6 million Californians will leave town for Thanksgiving this year, the most in a decade, making for crowded roads, airports and trains.
If you’re one of those travelers, here’s the drill: Leave home early. Pack your patience. And check out these tips, including some entertaining new apps and websites that can smooth your journey.
▪ Weather is chancy this week. A weak storm arrives in Northern California on Thursday, but should hit north of Sacramento, meaning blue skies locally. Even a brief rain can slick the roads, though, a recipe for spinouts.
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▪ Caltrans is closing down all highway construction projects from Wednesday morning through the weekend. But traffic will still be congested on many roads and highways, especially Thursday mid-afternoon. Highway officials say drivers should set out earlier than usual and expect delays.
▪ Check traffic on the road ahead with the Waze, Google Maps or other apps with real-time traffic data. You can also check quickmap.dot.ca.gov.
▪ For families facing the classic long-distance drive restroom dilemma, there’s a new app, Sit or Squat, that alerts you to nearby public restrooms, and tells you how clean or unclean each is. In other words, whether you can sit or squat.
▪ You can use it in conjunction with the iExit app, which tells you what amenities, such as restaurants, are located at upcoming freeway exits.
▪ This likely will be the busiest Thanksgiving week ever at Sacramento International Airport. Congestion will start at the parking lot. Check the airport website’s parking real-time information page before you leave, or have a passenger in your car check it on a phone. It tells you how many parking spots are available in each lot and what the prices are. It’s at http://sacramento.aero/smf/to_and_from/parking
▪ Federal security officials say waits at security checkpoints during peak periods can top 30 minutes. The MyTSA app gives wait times at airports and allows you to plug in your wait time to alert others.
▪ If you’re waiting for an arriving passenger, park in the free “cell phone” lot near the airport entrance. If picking people up at Terminal B, have them wait for you at the curb in front of doors three or four, not the more crowded doors one and two.
▪ At the TSA checkpoint, remember you now have to take all electronics larger than a cell phone out of your carry-on bag and put each in a separate plastic bin unless you have TSA PreCheck.
▪ Sacramento Regional Transit will run minimal Sunday service on Thanksgiving.
▪ Capitol Corridor and Amtrak, however, have bulked up the number of train cars this week. You can buy tickets at the station, but officials suggest buying online beforehand to avoid station hassles. The websites are www.capitolcorridor.org and www.amtrak.com
▪ Sign up for train status alerts. Map and train geeks also can check exactly where their train is at www.amtrak.com/track-your-train.html
▪ Parking is limited and expensive at the downtown Sacramento station at 4th and I streets. Consider hiring a ride-sharing company or having someone drop you off.
▪ “Small Business Saturday” related events are taking place this weekend. Get information at www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/shop-small/. Parking is free at downtown Sacramento meters, and Sacramento Regional Transit will operate a free shuttle every 20 minutes that loops through Old Sacramento, downtown, midtown and the R Street corridor. The route and other info is at www.sacrt.com
▪ Sacramento parking meters are turned off also through Christmas after 4:30 p.m. on weekdays and all day on Saturdays within a specific zone.
▪ Thanksgiving morning in east Sacramento and part of midtown: Streets will be closed for Run To Feed the Hungry, which starts at 8:15 a.m. Participants: No dogs, roller blades, bikes, scooters or skateboards. Strollers are not allowed in the timed races.
▪ Old Sacramento Holiday Tree lighting at 6 p.m. Wednesday. The Theatre of Lights initial performance starts at about 6:20 p.m. with lights and singalongs. Performances continue on Friday, Saturday, Sunday at 6 p.m. and at 7:30 p.m.