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Here are the worst times to travel for Christmas

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Don’t hit the road on Thursday afternoon

Traffic jam
If you’re traveling on Thursday, brace yourself for the brunt of the gridlock.
EGD | Shutterstock

Driving to visit family and friends this Christmas? You’ll have a lot of company on the road— especially if you’re planning to head out of town this afternoon.

AAA and transportation analysis firm Inrix predict the absolute worst of holiday traffic in Los Angeles will rear its head from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m., when trip times are expected to double. (The firms predicted similar delays for Thanksgiving, for comparison.)

Flying might not be much better, as a record number of travelers are also expected to take to the skies from Saturday to New Year’s Day. The highest number of travelers are expected to fly Saturday, Sunday, and Wednesday, AAA and Inrix say.

If you’re flying, officials at LAX expect the busiest travel day to be Wednesday, when more than 255,000 travelers are forecasted to move through the airport the day after Christmas. (That’s more than three times the capacity of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.)

Tomorrow and Sunday will also be jammed, with an expected 249,000 and 250,000 travelers, respectively.

LAX officials are advising flyers to arrive two hours before boarding time for domestic flights and three hours early for international flights.

They’re also recommending that drivers use Century Boulevard to get into the airport.

“We noticed during the Thanksgiving holiday period that Century Boulevard was underutilized while other entry points to the airport were significantly backed up,” said Keith Wilschetz, deputy executive director for operations.

Another recommendation is to drop off in the arrivals level, where there is “typically lighter traffic” than upstairs at departures. Travelers can use the escalators that link the two levels to get upstairs and catch their flight.

To help passengers assess the busyness in advance, the airport will tweet traffic information and travel times hourly on the busiest travel days.

More than 102 million Americans will go by by car for their holiday travels this year, AAA forecasts. That’s a 4.4 percent increase over last year, and the highest number of car-travelers since 2001, when AAA started tracking holiday travel.

In case you forgot just how nightmarish holiday traffic in Los Angeles can be, here’s 2016 helicopter footage of the 405 freeway through West LA before Thanksgiving.