Thanksgiving travelers encouraged to prepare for largest crowds in years

Millions of Californians are expected to travel for Thanksgiving, including about 20,000 people set to fly into and out of Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport.|

Sonoma County travelers venturing out of town this week are encouraged to give themselves extra time to reach destinations during the busiest Thanksgiving period since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Buoyed by eased restrictions that were in place because of the pandemic, about 7 million Californians are expected to travel by air or road for the holiday, according to AAA.

The share from Sonoma County and the rest of the Bay Area wasn’t available, but travelers should err on the side of caution and presume regional highways and airports will be congested.

“In California, we’re expecting a very robust holiday forecast,” AAA spokesman John Treanor told The Press Democrat on Monday afternoon.

He stressed the peak period begins Wednesday afternoon and anyone traveling by road should consider heading out as early as possible to beat traffic.

“If you can wake up early, get your kids up early and have them sleep in the car,” Treanor said.

Nationwide, 54.6 million people are on tap to travel for Thanksgiving and about 4.5 million will be getting on an airplane to do so — an 8% increase in air travel since last year.

During the 10-day window that ends Nov. 28, about 20,000 people are expected to fly into and out of Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport, Airport Manager Jon Stout said. That’s on par with last year’s number.

“We’re expecting a good number of travelers, but it won’t be our peak,” Stout said.

He cautioned more people travel with baggage during Thanksgiving week and travelers should give themselves more time to check in and reach their gates.

The overall nationwide number of Thanksgiving travelers is about 98% of what was reported in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to AAA.

Also motivating travelers this year: some minor relief at the gas pump. Dipping fuel prices are the lowest they’ve been in weeks — although still higher than they were a year ago.

According to AAA, Sonoma County’s average price for a gallon of regular unleaded fuel was $5.37 Monday. That’s up about 50 cents from around Thanksgiving 2021.

Santa Rosa gas stations charged an average of $5.92 per gallon a month ago, but the city’s average price also registered at $5.37 Monday.

Gas Buddy, which tracks gas prices per community, reported Santa Rosa’s lowest price on Monday was at Costco on Santa Rosa Avenue, where a gallon cost $4.79.

The national average, according to Gas Buddy, was $3.64 per gallon.

“It’s terrific news as motorists prepare for Thanksgiving travel, with tens of thousands of stations under $3 per gallon and thousands more to join in the next few weeks, barring a dramatic turnaround,” Patrick De Haan, Gas Buddy’s head of petroleum analysis, said in a statement.

You can reach Staff Writer Colin Atagi at On Twitter @colin_atagi

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