Sonoma County holiday travelers should prepare for crowded airports and rain

Sonoma County travelers hurrying out of town for the holiday weekend should prepare for busier airports and rain after Christmas.|

Sonoma County travelers hurrying out of town for the holiday weekend should prepare for busier airports and rain after Christmas.

“It’s going to be pretty condensed when people travel back,” Julian Paredes, AAA spokesperson, said Thursday. “People will be rushing to travel back after Christmas for work.”

Since Christmas falls on a Sunday this year, experts anticipate that tens of thousands of travelers have already ventured out of town or are planning to this weekend.

In California, about 14.8 million people are expected to travel. Of those, about 13.3 million are driving and 1.25 million are flying — about a 14% increase over 2021, according to AAA.

Nationwide, 112.7 million people are expected to travel for Christmas this year. In 2021, about 109.1 million people traveled, according to AAA.

As a result, experts are urging local travelers to be prepared for a bit of holiday frenzy at the start of next week when people begin returning to the Bay Area.

Also, adding potential problems are the anticipated rains. Forecasters predict they will deposit as much as 2 inches of precipitation across the region beginning Monday evening through Wednesday.

“Traveling home after Christmas is the biggest concern,” Brooke Bingaman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said Thursday. “If you are, pay attention to the latest forecast.”

The busiest travel days will be Tuesday, Wednesday and Jan. 2, officials said.

During the peak of Christmas travel, which began this past Sunday and will continue through Wednesday,about 19,000 people are expected to fly in and out of Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport, airport Manager Jon Stout said.

That’s a 5% decrease in people flying during Thanksgiving.

This week, it’s been calm inside the Sonoma County Airport but Stout suspects things will pick up through Monday.

“It’s still going to be busy, but we were expecting the airport to be busier,” he said.

He encourages people to arrive at least 1 to 2 hours before their flights, since people tend to travel with more luggage during the Christmas season and the airport’s parking lots fill up quickly.

Another tip for travelers: Don’t wrap the Christmas gifts that are inside your carry-on bags, or check your luggage, to avoid TSA ripping your perfectly wrapped gifts to inspect them.

As an aside, holiday snow globes are considered a liquid and must comply with the airport’s liquid limit for carry-on bags — 3 ounces or less, Stout said.

Here’s an early Christmas gift: gas prices continue to drop.

According to AAA, Sonoma County’s average price on Thursday was $4.49 for a gallon of regular unleaded fuel. That’s down about 30 cents from this time a year ago.

Gas Buddy, which tracks gas prices per community, reported Santa Rosa’s lowest price, on Thursday, was $3.99 per gallon, at Costco on Santa Rosa Avenue.

When it comes to the holiday weekend’s forecast, temperatures will be in the mid-60s to low 70s Friday afternoon through Sunday in the North Bay.

Christmas Day will be the warmest day in Santa Rosa this week with a high of 66 degrees.

As far as the wet weather expected to begin next week, , Tuesday’s rains will be the heaviest. They’ll be much lighter by Wednesday morning, Bingaman said.

You can reach Staff Writer Mya Constantino at @searchingformya on Twitter.

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