LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A record number of Southern California residents are expected to travel for the Christmas and New Year's holiday season, with 9.5 million locals expected to hit the roads and airways, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.
The Auto Club prediction of Southern California travelers is a 3% increase from last year's travel number during the same period, and 2% above the level from 2019, the last pre-pandemic year-end holiday season.
Nationally, 115.2 million people are expected to travel for the holidays, making it the second-busiest on record, behind the 119.3 million who traveled in 2019.
The Auto Club says the bustling holiday travel season runs from Dec. 23 through Jan. 1, but travelers at LAX say it's already starting to get crowded.
"A little bit more than I thought there would be this early on, but we always expect busy," one woman told Eyewitness News on Monday.
But it's not just airports that will be busy.
Among Southern California travelers, 8.3 million are expected to drive to their destinations, while 829,000 are expected to fly. Others will take means such as bus, train or cruise ship.
"With a new record for year-end travel among Southern Californians, we are expecting roads, airports and cruise ports to be very busy this month," Jena Miller, the Auto Club's vice president for travel products and services, said in a statement. "Consumer demand for leisure travel has surged this year, and it appears that the momentum is set to carry on into 2024."
The top destinations for Southern California travelers are expected to be Las Vegas, San Diego, the Central Coast, Palm Springs/Coachella Valley and the Grand Canyon.
Those who will hit the road will be hard-pressed to find a route that isn't jammed with traffic, but there are specific stretches of road that could be the most congested.
Citing research by transportation research firm INRIX, the Auto Club predicted that the busiest stretch of freeway during the travel period will be the southbound 5 Freeway between Bakersfield and Los Angeles on the evening of Dec. 27.
Dec. 23 is also expected to be a busy travel day, with the northbound 15 Freeway between San Diego and Interstate 10 expected to be congested.
The Auto Club recommended that travelers hit the road before lunchtime or after 7 p.m. to avoid the worst of the traffic.
AAA says the 10-day travel period will likely be the busiest ever at U.S. airports, but seasoned travelers have some advice:
"Be patient because there's no short cuts," one man told Eyewitness News at LAX.
City News Service contributed to this report.