(And these tips are good for holiday travel all year round)
Thanks to Los Angeles having so many lovely transplants, LAX is poised to be our nation’s busiest airport for the second Thanksgiving in a row. While our airport has seen its share of improvements, it still is quite a hassle to navigate during holiday season.
I’ve done the turkey trip many times and have the battle scars to show it. With all my trials and tribulations, I have painfully gained the knowledge on how to make Thanksgiving travel a better experience. Here are my best tips on how to keep some sanity this holiday season.
105 is Alive
No matter what freeway you’re coming from, the fastest option getting in and out of LAX is taking the I-105 west to the Sepulveda exit. It may add distance to the trip, but it provides a greater flow than other alternatives. Freeway signage suggests Century Blvd. as the main entrance to the airport, but it is wrought with stoplights and Metro Rail construction. The exception to entering by the I-105 is when taking the I-405 South during heavy congestion. Then your best choice is exiting Howard Hughes or sometimes La Tijera, depending on traffic (it oscillates) and connecting with Sepulveda until you reach the airport.
Bring a Sandwich
It’s Thanksgiving. Odds are your flight will be delayed and just once if you’re lucky. The last thing you want to do is wait a half hour to overpay for an undersized meal. During holiday time, you’ll notice the food does not seem up to normal standards. Empower yourself and pack something your stomach will be proud of. Just beware that other travelers will look at you with a wanting eye wishing they remembered to bring a meal as well.
Never Touch Ground Level
LAX was originally just one level, but it was constructed in a manner that it would at some point accommodate a second, which came to fruition in the 80’s. The signage directs you that the upper level is for departures and the lower is for arrivals, but I buck the trend during pickups. Even with less lanes, the top deck is faster since it’s not serviced by as many shuttle vehicles, crosswalks and stoplights. While it may be a little more difficult finding the upper level once you’ve deboarded your plane, the time you save getting out of LAX more than makes up for it.
Discover a Book
This may be an outdated suggestion, but bear with me. It’s common your main source of entertainment on hand is your smartphone, but we’re still strapped with the modern problem that no device ever has a strong battery life. If you’re looking for a power outlet during holiday time, then you might as well enter the Hunger Games. There always are people hoarded around these slots that have faced longer delays and are more pissed off than you. Reacquaint yourself with print and paper.
Prepay for Parking
If leaving your car at the airport is a must, you know it can get pricey. Parking next to the terminals is $30 a day while the official shuttled parking is $12. You can do better. Google “LAX parking” to find one of the websites that lists parking rates for some of the nearby lots (I won’t endorse any). If you make an early reservation online, you can save even more money. These lots have their own shuttles, which operate nearly as efficient as their LAX counterparts. You’ll thank me when you have more money for the airport bar.
Beware the FlyAway
I don’t mean to slog the FlyAway. If this was a non-Thanksgiving LAX article, I would totally endorse it as these buses are regularly under-utilized. During the holiday season, FlyAway is at its peak when many students without cars have no other option of getting to the airport because all their friends don’t have cars as well. There’s a strong chance that the bus you’re trying to catch will fill up and you’ll have to wait at least a half hour for the next to depart. Not the way to start a holiday. Give yourself extra time or chance riding as a stowaway.
Zachary Rynew has touched Los Angeles in many ways. For years he helped visualize many of the city’s major projects (LA Live, Hollywood Blvd., Metro Rail, UCLA) and had his work featured at the Getty. He was a winner at the LA Improv Comedy Festival and ran in five LA Marathons. Now, he travels the city by bike and couples his local knowledge with his sports writing experience to bring you a different look at the blurs we normally pass by.