Turkey travelers hitting the road | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Turkey travelers hitting the road

William Ferchland

With Thanksgiving and the shopper’s day known as Black Friday, this week is considered one of the busiest travel periods of the year.

The Reno-Tahoe International Airport expects 22,000 people to go through its gates while California Highway Patrol Officer Steve Gwaltney envisions a backlog of traffic on the westbound lane of Highway 50 on Sunday.

But without enough snow for ski resorts to open, Ken Daley, president of Area Transit Management, anticipates a quiet Thanksgiving at South Shore.

“Without the snow it’s going to be a little different this year,” said Daley, head of the city’s bus system, BlueGo.

AAA of Northern California estimated 4.6 million Californians plan to travel 50 miles or more, a 4.6 percent increase from last year.

Although gas prices have dropped, prices remain 17 cents more at the pump than last year. Prices are also up for hotels and car rentals, according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index.

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“Travel costs are up this year, but when it comes to spending Thanksgiving with family, people tend to find ways to absorb higher travel prices,” said Cynthia Harris, spokeswoman for AAA of Northern California.

To compensate for a spike in travelers, the Reno-Tahoe International Airport is using its 300-space employee parking lot for overflow if its 3,600 spaces are full, said spokeswoman Heidi Berthold.

“It’s definitely one of the highest travel periods of the year,” Berthold said. She noted stretches in March, when spring breaks collide with ski season, are comparable to the Thanksgiving rush.

To help travelers through the ticketing area, security checkpoints and baggage claim area, passenger aides will be clad in yellow with other assistants wearing red jackets.

“There’s going to be a lot of traffic,” said Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Chuck Allen.

Allen said motorists should take the proper precautions, such as inspecting their cars and wearing seat belts, before hitting the road. Both Allen and Gwaltney reminded motorists to avoid drinking and driving.

Allen noted a “huge Thanksgiving meal” can impair drivers by making them sleepy. He also mentioned Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving when holiday shoppers find discounts and help businesses raise profit margins.

“A lot of them are anxious and in a hurry, and I think they get some of their priorities mixed up when it comes to driving,” Allen said.

Gwaltney noted that visitors had already begun arriving at South Shore. While many arrive at different times, most leave on Sunday between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., creating stop-and-go traffic, he said.

“Just relax and enjoy the scenery,” he said, adding, “The main thing people have to be is patient.”