Lake Tahoe hot travel spot |

Lake Tahoe hot travel spot

There’s no place like home.

This is especially true if you live in Lake Tahoe or have to drive, ride or fly during the holidays.

The American Automobile Association’s travel agency rated our Sierra Nevada jewel as one in six top U.S. hotspots for Christmas travelers this year. Also on the list are Hawaii, Mexico, the Caribbean, Las Vegas and Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif.

“That’s our Christmas present,” Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority Director Terry LeBan said, enamored with the notion of beating Disneyland for number of visitors in today’s mobile society.

Over the next few weeks, more than 7.3 million Californians are expected to travel more than 100 miles from home-to-holiday destinations, according to AAA.

One in five California residents will take to the roads, sky or rail – with 74 percent traveling by automobile, the survey indicated.

“We’ve seen more people on the road during this period than any other time,” said California State Automobile Association spokesman Justin O’Brien, also acknowledging the time frame is longer than most holidays.

The results coincide with falling gas prices, which have dropped significantly in the last three weeks, O’Brien cited.

“Prices have come down – not as fast as Santa’s sleigh, but it’s still the third straight month of decline in California,” O’Brien said, adding the drops are reflective of a seasonal decline.

Eleven cents lower than a month ago, the current average for a gallon of unleaded gasoline is $1.69 in California and Nevada.

In Reno, the price average is $1.59, down 21 cents from last month’s survey. Some reports out of gas stations in the Carson Valley are as low as $1.39 a gallon.

In California, there are some pockets of the state with a higher average price in gas, amounting to almost $2 a gallon. San Francisco is $1.94, and Sacramento is $1.76.

By contrast, the national average is $1.45.

According to AAA’s nationwide travel survey, 60.6 million Americans plan to travel sometime over Christmas and New Year’s, a 4 percent increase over last year’s 58.3 million. The Air Transport Association reported a record 39.6 million passengers expected to travel by plane over the three-week period that ends Jan. 4.

The prospect of massive melees and fiascoes flopped during the turning of the millennium last year.

Over this year’s end-of-year holiday season, a quarter of these travelers have reservations at a hotel or motel. Other lodging plans include: cabin/condo – 6 percent; camper, tent or recreational vehicle – 2 percent; boat or ship – 2 percent; and bed and breakfast inn – 1 percent.

South Lake Tahoe Lodging Association President Pete MacRoberts said that many motels are starting to fill up around Dec. 23 – the anticipated peak time.

“What we’re hearing out there is the lake properties in town are having fewer and fewer openings this weekend,” said Monica Bandows, Tahoe-Douglas Chamber of Commerce president and Heavenly’s spokeswoman.

Heavenly has been tagged as a major draw for Tahoe, with its gondola debut Thursday.

The Washoe County Airport Authority is also bracing for significant crowds at the Reno/Tahoe International Airport this holiday, which peaks today.

Several thousand travelers are expected to pass through the airport, spokesman Adam Mayberry said.

Like Thanksgiving, the airport authority advises travelers or those picking them up to arrive an hour before their departure or arrival time. The flying public should also have photo identification ready upon check-in and limit the amount of carry-on baggage as planes are expected to fill up.

It’s also recommended to call the airport prior to departure to check the schedule for flight delays.

The Midwest and New England have been inundated with heavy snow this week, affecting many flights out of the nation’s busiest airports – Chicago’s O’Hare and Boston’s Logan airports.

The National Weather Service forecasts a storm on the East Coast early this weekend, with the rest of the nation relatively clear.

The Washoe County Airport Authority also advised travelers to refrain from pre-wrapping gifts tagged as carry-ons because security may unwrap them. It’s better to package the gifts in a large box and check them in with baggage handlers – most of the time.

Three Minnesota baggage handlers were suspended Wednesday by Northwest Airlines after they were shown on television treating holiday packages like basketballs, The Associated Press reported.

News footage shot by KSTP showed the three taking packages off a plane at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, tossing them over their heads, behind their backs, high into the air and into a bin.

Northwest Vice President Dirk McMahon was concerned their behavior tarnishes the hard work of their fellow employees during this busy holiday season.

So, ’tis the season for the good, the bad and the ugly.

An airline watchdog group claims air travelers are already plagued by airline labor trouble and bad weather, raising the likelihood of travel headaches during the holiday rush.

“This is shaping up badly for travelers,” said Joe Brancatelli, a columnist for

The nation’s biggest airlines – United, Northwest and Delta – are in the midst of unsettled labor disputes.

The good news? Most of the same issues were present during the Thanksgiving holiday and the chaos predicted never materialized.

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