Survival guide for LAX holiday travel: take the backroads

FILE: Traffic approaches LAX as people traveled to Thanksgiving holiday destinations last year.
FILE: Traffic approaches LAX as people traveled to Thanksgiving holiday destinations last year.
David McNew/Getty Images

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Airport officials expect traffic through LAX this Thanksgiving week to bust previous records with 2.1 million passengers and about 86,000 cars per day in the central terminal area.

The promise of taking ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft to and from the airport has been dangling for months. The Los Angeles City Council paved the way for it to happen back in August.

But airport officials say they're still waiting for the companies to submit all of the required documentation. That includes demonstrating geo-fence technology to ensure only drivers in a designated waiting area can receive ride requests from within the airport. 

"We are optimistic we'll be operational at LAX before the end of the year," said Chelsea Wilson, who works on policy issues for Lyft. 

Michael Amodeo, an Uber spokesman, could not give an estimate of when the company will be fully operational at the airport, but said it is working through the "extensive" application. 

So what are your best options to get in and out of LAX?

Still want to take rideshare?

You can take Uber or Lyft to LAX, you just can't hail a ride from the airport when you come back. However, many passengers simply take a shuttle bus to a nearby hotel or parking lot and hail the ride from there.

If you're on a budget

LAX Flyaway buses are a good bet, serving downtown Union Station, Van Nuys, Westwood, Santa Monica and Hollywood. Starting in December, the buses will also serve Long Beach and the Orange Line Rapid Bus in Van Nuys. Prices range from $8 to $10 and schedules are posted here

If you live in proximity to the Green Line, a Green Line bus connects LAX to the Aviation stop.

If you want to take your car

Sometimes parking at the airport can be just as cheap as taking ride share, depending on the length of your stay. LAX's Lot C is the cheapest at $13 a day, though it will no doubt fill up quickly this week. The lots across from the terminals will set you back $30 a day. Check out the wide range of private parking options reviewed on Yelp!.

If you have a brave friend or family member

Are you dropping off or picking up someone? LAX suggests checking current traffic conditions within the airport here. If the arrivals or departure level is particularly congested, head to the less busy level to deliver or fetch your passengers.

LAX has a free cell phone lot where drivers can wait for a call from arriving passengers. It's right next to Parking Lot C, where passengers can take a free shuttle if drivers don't want to deal with entering the terminal.

LAX has also suggested a series of backroad shortcuts for various approaches to the airport, which they've given nicknames like "The Sneak," "The Sidedoor," and "The Slip." But LAX spokeswoman Nancy Castles cautioned that these approaches can be overly complex for inexperienced navigators.

General tips

According to LAX, the three busiest times for waits inside and outside the terminal are during these hours: 6 a.m. to 9 a.m.; 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. If you are arriving or departing during those hours, plan for delays.

Passengers should aim to arrive at least two hours early for domestic flights and three hours early for international flights.

If you get there early and have time to kill, LAX does now have free Wi-Fi.