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Travel industry predicts smooth holiday journeys

Dec 22 2011

O come all ye ferries, airplanes and cars.

There may be a little rain predicted this Christmas, but not enough to spoil travel plans.

"I think it's going to be a great Christmas for Victoria," said Terry Stewart of the Victoria Airport Authority. "People arriving will have a wonderful welcome with the sunshine, the green grass and the flowers. People leaving will have no hassles on departure."

About 4,100 people flow through the airport every day. This has increased to about 4,600 during the holiday season, said Stewart.

"All the planes are full. They're all on time and it's all moving sweetly. We've got great weather and no cancellations."

WestJet has added eight flights to Calgary from Dec. 21 to Jan. 1, said Stewart. Canjet is starting its Cancun/Puerto Vallarta service with a couple of flights a day.

"There's no panic around the check-in process because there are no delays or backups."

As it gets closer to Christmas, people should arrive about 90 minutes before departure in case they have to park their cars in overflow parking, said Stewart.

"This year, we expanded our overflow parking lot and paved it all. We expect we'll be able to accommodate all our passengers' parking demands," said Stewart.

He advises checking the airport's website at www.victoriaairport.com.

The forecast for Christmas Eve calls for periods of rain with a low of 5 C and a high of 8 C. On Christmas Day, showers are predicted with a low of five and high of eight.

There's no snow or ice in the forecast to snarl traffic on the Malahat.

It should be smooth sailing on B.C. Ferries as well.

"There are no high winds predicted, thankfully," said B.C. Ferries spokeswoman Deborah Marshall.

B.C. Ferries has added 150 extra sailings from Dec. 16 to Jan. 2. All extra sailings will be going as scheduled despite the hard landing at Duke Point Tuesday, said Marshall.

The busiest days of the holiday season are expected to be Dec. 26 to Dec. 28 and reservations are recommended.

Some sailings are reduced on Christmas Day and New Year's Day because not as many people travel on those days. For the full holiday schedule, check www.bcferries.com.

Ryan Burles, president of the Black Ball Ferry Line, said he is starting to see Christmas travellers on the Coho, which travels between Port Angeles, Wash., and Victoria.

"We tend to get pretty busy after Christmas, from Boxing Day until after New Year's," said Burles. "Local travellers come up here to enjoy Christmas in the hotels or to visit family. We also get the snowbirds heading south who wait for Christmas, then head out."

Walk-on travellers will have no problem taking the ferry. Burles recommends reservations from Boxing Day until Jan. 2.

"If you don't have a reservation, it's best to phone our office the day before," he said.

Between 60 and 70 per cent of the boat is booked, the rest is first-come, first-served. Passengers should show up 90 minutes before a sailing.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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