Expect holiday traffic in Southern California to be heavy and unpredictable. Photo courtesy California Highway Patrol

The number of Independence Day holiday travelers will exceed a record 5 million statewide and 3.1 million in Southern California, with many headed for San Diego, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.

“Remember to pack your patience along with your sunscreen,” said San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman, who also warned that law enforcement will be out in force watching for alcohol- and drug-impaired drivers.

Travel is expected to increase by 2.8 percent statewide and in Southern California compared to last year’s Fourth of July holiday, according to the Auto Club. An Independence Day holiday trip is defined as one of 50 miles away from home between Friday and Tuesday.

About 79 percent of Southern California travelers, or 2.5 million, are expected to drive to their holiday destinations, which is a 2.7 percent increase from last year, while 395,000 are projected to fly, a 5.6 percent increase from last year’ holiday.

According to a survey of AAA Travel agents, the top five destinations for Southern Californians this holiday are, in the following order, San Diego, Las Vegas, San Francisco, the Grand Canyon and Santa Barbara

“Travelers continue to feel confident that they have the discretionary income to spend on trips because of rising wages and lower unemployment,” said Filomena Andre, the Auto Club’s vice president for travel. “Strong growth in air travel also indicates a full recovery from the recession of 2008 and 2009.”

The San Diego International Airport advised those traveling to or from Lindbergh Field on the evening of July 4 to allow extra time because of crowds expected on the waterfront for the annual fireworks show.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.