Holiday travel shifts to earlier trips

Friday will likely be the biggest travel day of this holiday season and the largest since before the recession.

For travelers all over California and much of the country, it will be a record-setting holiday week.

San Francisco Airport maintenance crews are putting 3 million lights on the pine trees lining the entry road. All decorations will be up and running right after Thanksgiving.

The onslaught of travelers has already begun.

"We're seeing a new trend over the last couple of years and that is that the Friday before Thanksgiving week has become our busiest single travel day. I think a lot of people are taking the entire week off," said SFO's Chief Spokesman Doug Yakel,.

Many travelers were already flying Thursday.

"Well, just kind of because to beat the rush.  Actually I got a little nervous today, you know, with all the stuff that's going on," said passenger Shawn McLemore.

"I'm trying to visit family, so I wanted a longer period of time, plus, it's less expensive to travel this week than next week," said passenger Sharon Ibsen.

Tomorrow, the potential big hang up: security isn't going to be the slam dunk that it is right now unless you're registered with the government's TSA Pre-Check program or the private company Clear.

In any event, the TSA is full-on with security and that could take a long, long time.

"Time is the ultimate luxury when it comes to holiday travel," said Yakel.

On Friday, based on SFO expects 154,000 arriving and departing passengers with nearly the same returning he Sunday after Thanksgiving. San Jose and Oakland airports are looking for record travel as well.

Overall holiday travel in planes, trains and cars will be up 7.5 percent over last year, by far the best year since the recession.

"We're expecting over 5.7 million Californians to be traveling. And out of this number, 5 million will be traveling by car. So, as usual, it's going to be many, many people on the road," said Cynthia Harris, Northern California AAA spokeswoman.

The best advice? Drive defensively, because the roads will be loaded with distracted drivers, drivers on the phone, texting drivers, and lost drivers. 

"All I can do is grab on to God and keep moving", said passenger Shawn McLemore.

Sometime Thursday night or Friday, the one-year-old BART rail connector to Oakland Airport will carry its one-millionth passenger: truly a mega birthday present for the successful line.