Influx expected over the weekend
In addition to the fireworks and fanfare, Fourth of July travelers in Southern California can expect some traffic this weekend as projections for holiday travel nears pre-pandemic levels.
AAA is expecting 3.3 million Southern Californians to travel this Fourth of July weekend, 86% of whom are expected to travel by car. Nationwide, AAA expects 47.7 million people to travel for the holiday, a number that is up nearly 40% from last year and only lags Fourth of July travel in 2019 by 2.5%.
According to Jeffrey Spring, a spokesperson for AAA of Southern California, travelers around Santa Barbara can expect to hit traffic on Highway 101 between now and Monday, particularly in the areas between Montecito and Santa Barbara.
“You might want to plan an alternate route because your main route might be really really busy,” Mr. Spring told the News-Press Thursday. “We would recommend looking at a map on your phone or even a paper map to see what alternate routes there may be. Just do some advanced planning in these travel times because people are just wanting to get out and go places, so, many places will be crowded.”
Air travel will also be on the uptick during the holiday weekend, with 3.52 million Americans expected to travel by plane between now and Monday. That’s an increase of 163% from 2020, but is still down about 10% from 2019.
The estimated influx of air travelers will have implications at the Santa Barbara Airport, where officials are anticipating an extremely busy weekend.
Angi Daus, the marketing coordinator for the Santa Barbara Airport, told the News-Press that the airport has been back up to pre-pandemic levels for a few weeks now.
In recent weeks, the airport has not dipped below 1,500 passengers per day, Ms. Daus said. That total even increased this week, with the airport serving more than 1,600 passengers a day leading up to the Fourth of July weekend.
“We haven’t passed our record number in a single day yet, but we are way back up to our normal levels for sure,” Ms. Daus said. “We are flying just as many (passengers), if not more, on less flights. We’re not back up to the same number of daily flights, but we’re serving people at the same level as before (the pandemic).”
Now that more passengers are flying in and out of the Santa Barbara Airport, Ms. Daus said the airport recommends that travelers arrive 90 minutes to two hours early for flights. She also suggested passengers either carpool to the airport or park in the economy lot due to the limited spaces available in the airport’s main lot.
For those on road trips over the holiday weekend, Mr. Spring said travelers should prioritize safe driving by getting plenty of rest before a long drive.
And, Mr. Spring reminded motorists, don’t text while you drive.
If possible, Mr. Spring recommended that drivers check in with their mechanic to make sure their car is in good condition before setting out on a road trip.
“It’s important to make sure your car is in good condition because you don’t want to be halfway to your destination and have something breakdown in your car,” Mr. Spring said. “So it’s important to make sure your car is in good condition. Have it looked at by a mechanic, make sure the tires are in good condition.”
Despite the holiday-induced traffic, travelers will not face traffic jams as a result of construction this weekend, as Caltrans will pause all roadway projects during the holiday weekend.