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Travelers wait in line to have their boarding passes checked at a security screening area of American Airlines terminal at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on November 23, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.
Friday will kick of Los Angeles International Airport's annual mad scramble to get passengers sorted, screened and sent off to various holiday destinations beginning later this week. Officials are expecting traffic to be slightly higher than last year, and lines will likely be slightly longer as a result. So before you head off into the hubbub, a few tips:
1. Arrive at least two hours early
LAX estimates around 1,792,000 travelers will shuffle through its corridors between Friday, Nov. 16, and Monday, Nov. 26. That's up 0.3 percent from last year and second only to Chicago-O'Hare in terms of expected Thanksgiving traffic. The busiest day is expected to be the Sunday after Thanksgiving — Nov. 25th — not the day before, as it is usually.
The busiest times for traveling will be between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m.; from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily. If you're planning on traveling anytime during those hours, you want to be sure to arrive at least two hours early if you're flying domestically. For international flights, you want to be at the airport at least three hours before.
2. Check in online
Most domestic airlines will allow you to check in online, saving you the wait in line at the airport. LAX officials are advising that you do so if possible.
3. Check your flight status before you leave
Some of the last minute cancellation chaos can't be avoided, but it always helps to check in on whether your flight is planning to leave on time before you head out. LAX has a page for that. There are also no lack of mobile apps for the iPhone, Android and Windows phones that do the same.
4. Parking? Hide your stuff
Officials at LAX say they're concerned by a rising tide of parked car thefts in recent years that have taken place around the holidays. Last year those numbers dropped a bit, and the airport credits enhanced security and LAX's outreach effort (dubbed "Lock it, Hide it, Keep it") for the downturn. The lesson: If you're going to keep stuff in your car, hide it.
Still, it might be better to take a cab, book a shuttle service or take Metro's "Flyaway" bus. You can now book online for buses leaving from Union Station ($7 | schedule) and Van Nuys ($7 | schedule), and Westwood ($10 | schedule).
5. Don't be that guy
You know, the one at the front of the line downing a liter bottle of water while the rest of the line waits. The TSA has a handy list of tips for holiday travelers. The toplines include:
- Wear easy-to-remove footwear
- Have your ID
- No liquids above 3.4 ounces (100ml)!
TSA also has a list of helpful hints for those who'll be traveling with kids or with elderly, disabled or passengers with medical conditions. And if you want a back-up for any last minute questions while you're in line, you might want to download their app.
6. Problems? Look for the red vests
LAX will continue their successful employee assistance program. Employee volunteers in red vests will wander the corridors on the upper (departures) level of the airport on the day before and the Sunday after Thanksgiving, offering a hand and assistance to passengers. They might be your best bet if you've got a quick question.