If you are hitting the road this Thanksgiving weekend, get ready for the madding crowd.
Thanks to an improving economy, more people are expected to travel this holiday season than any in a decade. And that calls for prep work and a little savvy.
Weather conditions in Northern California will vary throughout the week. On the good side, the National Weather Service forecasts Thanksgiving Day as sunny and cold. But a storm is expected Tuesday evening, lasting through Wednesday afternoon, and another is due late Thursday that will last into Friday. Both storms will bring snow to the mountains, as low as 4,500 feet.
Here are some quick travel tips from The Sacramento Bee:
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The number of people taking a driving trip of an hour or more this week in California will be up 3 percent from last year, just enough to gum up the regular slow-and-go areas on I-80 around the Yolo Causeway, Davis, Vacaville and beyond.
Wednesday after 2 p.m. will be the worst time to be on the road in the Sacramento region, according to a Google freeway data analysis. Traffic that afternoon may be 40 percent worse than a regular Wednesday commute. Friday on the other hand is a good travel day, especially the morning. But Saturday return traffic is expected to be heavy in the afternoon.
This time of year, always bring chains if you travel in the mountains. Charge your cellphones as well. Bring water, blankets and a clothing change in case you get stalled in snow or behind a crash.
The California Highway Patrol will increase enforcement this weekend.
Sacramento International Airport will be as crowded as you’ve seen it in years. Air travel is up 5 percent this year at the airport, and the number of passengers is likely to top 10 million for the year. That’s the largest number since 2007.
Be aware that two of the three major parking lots at the Sacramento airport – the economy lot and the daily surface lot – could fill up by midweek. That leaves the parking garage, which is the most expensive lot. The garage has elevated walkways into both terminals.
There is a sign above the airport entrance road that tells drivers which lots are full and which are available.
Lines at the federal security checkpoints also likely will bulge. Earlier this year, peak wait times hit a half hour. Officials say you should arrive two hours before your flight.
Federal security official Nico Melendez said the Transportation Security Administration has authorized overtime pay at checkpoints.
“It’s all hands on deck,” he said.
Also, if you rent a car, be aware. Rental car companies sometimes have long wait lines for cars, even for people who have already reserved one. Wait times at the Budget rental car agency at Los Angeles recently on Veterans Day hit two hours.
Trains, buses and cabs
This is one of the busiest weeks of the year for the Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin passenger trains. Capitol Corridor will add extra cars to trains to accommodate crowds, but is not offering any special rates. Trains could fill. Buy your ticket online in advance.
The train agency offers special Thanksgiving bus service for Cal Poly, Chico State and Humboldt State students.
Unitrans, the Davis bus service for the city and university, will offer special airport service hourly on Wednesday, coordinating with YoloBus so that buses serve the airport on a half-hourly basis.
E-tran in Elk Grove will not operate on Thanksgiving Day.
The week should be a busy one for rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft. That may mean “surge” or higher prices at peak times, such as Thanksgiving evening. Such services, though, provide a good alternative for people who imbibe.
For those, frankly the majority of us who stay home, there are numerous holiday events getting underway around the region this week.
Old Sacramento will have its annual tree lighting on Wednesday evening, followed by a series of holiday song events called Macy’s Theatre of Lights. The California State Railroad Museum will host its Polar Express train excursion rides as well.
Starting on Friday, street parking in the core downtown Sacramento is free after 4:30 p.m. on weekdays and all day on weekends through Christmas Day.
Cal Expo is hosting its annual evening Global Winter Wonderland with rides and holiday themed entertainment this week through Sunday.