LAKE ELSINORE, CA — Thursday was the kickoff day for the Fourth of July holiday weekend for many in Lake Elsinore, Wildomar and across Southern California. From staycations to vacations, the Automobile Club of Southern California estimates that nearly 3.3 million SoCal residents will be traveling for the holiday, the third-highest number for a Fourth of July holiday, behind only 2019 and 2018.
This year, are you staying home or going far afield?
According to the Auto Club, 2.7 million Southern Californians will drive to their destinations for the long weekend, while 426,000 will fly. About 168,000 will travel by other means, such as bus, train or cruise ship.
The top destinations for Lake Elsinore residents are Las Vegas, San Diego, the Grand Canyon, Mexico and Yosemite. Some people are also likely to be traveling overseas while others are staying closer to home heading to area beaches, and even to Palm Springs to enjoy summer hotel specials.
Flying out of the Inland Empire is an option for those who “wanna get away” consider leaving from Palm Springs International Airport or Ontario International Airport as a viable option for travel.
At Ontario International Airport, passenger traffic is expected to be 13% higher than it was at the same time during the July 4 holiday period in 2019.
More than 75,000 travelers are anticipated from July 1-5, an increase of 66,727 passengers who flew into and out of Ontario during the same time three years ago, according to Airport Authority officials.
“Demand for air travel in Southern California remains strong, even more so at Ontario where we have surpassed pre-pandemic passenger totals for several months,” said Atif Elkadi, chief executive officer of the Ontario International Airport Authority. “We recognize that the resurgence of air travel has not been as smooth for some in the industry, but we’re well prepared and ready to serve our customers with a stress-free, passenger-friendly experience that is our hallmark.”
Elkadi said travelers driving to Ontario airport can take advantage of the online reservation system to pre-book parking at discounted rates close to the airport’s passenger terminals.
Population shifts away from coastal areas to the Inland Empire in recent years has helped Ontario set its industry-leading pace in rebounding from the effects of the pandemic, Elkadi said.
A Palm Springs International Airport’s website offers a glimpse at on-time fights for Thursday’s arrivals and departures through Thursday afternoon. Flights can take residents from Denver to Dallas-Ft. Worth, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City and up and down the west coast. A spokesperson recommends taking a quick trip from their international airport, easily accessible from across the Inland Empire. Southwest Airlines offers many levels of fares and is adding new nonstop flight destinations almost every month.
If you really want to go somewhere cooler in more ways than one, try booking a getaway to Banff, in Calgary, Canada. Convenient nonstop service is available from Palm Springs International Airport to Canada on WestJet.
Across the country, 48 million people are expected to be traveling for the holiday, according to the Auto Club, with the vast majority reaching their destination by driving — despite near-record-high gas prices.
In the Inland Empire, gas prices range from $5.79 to $6.69 on Thursday morning. GasBuddy.com shows crowd-sourced price data, offering close to real-time deals on fuel purchases. Murrieta reported among the lowest gas prices in Southwest Riverside County, at $5.78 at Sam’s Club as of Wednesday night. Temecula Gas Prices have dropped to $5.79 per gallon of regular unleaded gasoline at the Sinclair Station on Temecula Parkway and Pechanga Parkway. Lake Elsinore’s Costco, 7-Eleven and Vons are all selling gasoline from $5.99 per gallon. Palm Desert gas prices are $5.80 at Costco and in the Pass Area, Beaumont’s ARCO on E. First Street is selling fuel at $5.99.
“We expect that the recent lifting of the COVID testing requirement for air passengers re-entering the U.S. will continue the increase in demand for international vacation bookings that we are already seeing this summer,” Heather Felix, the Auto Club’s vice president of travel products and services, said in a statement.
For people driving, the transportation-analytics firm INRIX recommended that motorists avoid driving on Thursday, Friday and Saturday afternoons, which are expected to be the busiest travel times, with the 5, 10, 405 and 57 freeways anticipated to be the most congested.
INRIX recommended that people do their driving early in the morning.
Where are you heading this holiday weekend? or are you staying home to enjoy that pool and sunshine? Let us know in the comments or by emailing your Patch editor and Happy 4th of July from all of us at Patch.
City News Service contributed to this report.