LOS ANGELES - Memorial Day weekend travelers have already set a new 2021 record at Los Angeles International Airport, with more than 78,000 people passing through Transportation Security Administration on Friday alone, according to airport officials.
LAX officials said 67,000 people went through TSA on Sunday, and the airport expects to see more travelers Monday evening and Tuesday following the holiday.
RELATED: Memorial Day Weekend: LAX officials warn of increasing passenger traffic
With travel plans long-delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 37 million people were expected to travel from May 27 through May 31, a 60% increase from last year's record-low of 23 million travelers, according to data from the American Automobile Association.
According to the Automobile Club of Southern California, more than 2.8 million Southern California residents were expected to travel over the holiday weekend, up 64% from last year. Nearly 90% of all travelers were expected to drive to their destinations with about 9% flying. Nationally, more than 37 million people are expected to travel for Memorial Day.
"I know when we flew back in December, not that we were doing anything wrong, but it just definitely felt like oh there's not very many people doing this and now everyone seems to be doing it," said Alexis who was traveling back from Reno with her family at LAX on Monday.
Even before the holiday, May was already the busiest month at LAX since early 2020 before the onset of the pandemic, with an average of 61,400 passengers passing through security checkpoints each day. That is only about half of the passenger volume from the same period in 2019, but airport officials said it is still significantly higher than it has been during the pandemic and increasing every week.
The Automobile Club of Southern California is also predicting a busy summer travel season with data showing more than three quarters of Americans say they are ready for a trip.
"I've done a little bit of travel within the U.S and the airports were dead last year and this trip was definitely the craziest it's been and it was kind of nice but it was also like God here we go again," said Alexa, an LAX traveler on Monday.
"We are seeing passenger numbers rise quickly as the demand for air travel surges across the U.S., so we want to make sure our guests know they will be returning to an airport that is bustling with travelers and at times experiencing heavy traffic," Justin Erbacci, CEO of Los Angeles World
Airports, the city agency that oversees LAX, said earlier this week. "LAX is ready and excited to welcome back our guests to an airport that is safe and clean with new technology and amenities that offer a more touchless passenger experience."
"These holiday getaway numbers are very encouraging, and we expect travel to continue to strengthen once cruising and other options reopen," said Filomena Andre, the Auto Club's vice president for travel. "Because COVID-19 restrictions can vary widely from place to place and can change quickly, the Auto Club strongly recommends getting travel insurance and working with a AAA travel adviser."
The Auto Club listed a number of recommendations for summer travelers to help them plan ahead:
Make reservations. National parks are requiring advance registrations, so don’t expect to be able to get in without one. Hotels in remote areas, likewise, are selling out quickly, so make sure to reserve them in advance. And a nationwide rental car shortage could also create difficulties for travelers, so consider driving your own vehicle or using alternate transportation such as tour buses.
Don’t forget passports/documentation. If you are taking one of the first North American cruises being offered this summer, you need a passport even if it’s a cruise to Alaska. Allow extra time to process your passport. Auto Club members can get 30% off passport photos at any Auto Club branch.
Bring paper maps. If you are driving in remote areas, it may be difficult to access data-based online GPS. The Auto Club has free domestic maps available to members at any of its branches.
Get your vehicle inspected. Many vehicles have been sitting largely unused for the past year and could have problems handling a long road trip without a maintenance service visit. Make sure fluid levels, hoses, belts and tires are in good condition and that tires are properly inflated for safety and fuel efficiency. Visit AAA.com.repair to find a qualified and AAA-inspected mechanic near you.
Bring along needed extras for safety. Make sure you have masks for everyone in the family for the duration of your trip, as well as hand sanitizer. Bring along an emergency first aid kit and have plenty of drinks and food available for all in the car in case you get stranded on the road.
Consider planning your trip with the help of a AAA travel advisor who can help you save time, find the best deals and assist with making changes should you need to while away.
According to the Auto Club, the top destinations for Southern California travelers are expected to be Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks in Utah, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon National Park, San Diego and Yosemite National Park.