Getting around during the holidays is a tough task, no matter the city. In Charleston, traveling during the holiday season can be a particularly difficult and arduous experience due to the size of the city and the increase in traffic during the holiday season. In planning any important or long journey, it’s essential to know what to expect in the traffic at your destination, how to plan for different routes, and what other options are available in case of inevitable delays or stoppages.
This guide will lead you through some tips on how to get to and travel around Charleston during the holiday months. We gathered tips on holiday season airports and flying, driving and taking public transport in and around the city.
Flying to Charleston
Booking a flight to Charleston for the holidays is convenient for long-distance travel, but Charleston International Airport is a quickly growing center of travel. In fact, in July this year the airport’s traffic rose to a new record, and in just August again was raised by 20-percent. As a result, flights may be harder to find and scarcer in availability the closer to Christmas and New Years Eve/Day you look for a flight.
If you are able to spend a bit more time at your destination, consider booking a flight a few days earlier than you initially planned. Often, this will help to reduce costs and will open you up to more options for flights and times.
Booking a flight that is less than two days before Christmas or one day before New Year’s Eve can mean paying a higher price for your seat and depending on how long you wait to book the flight itself, you may be out of options before you are able to purchase one. When it comes to holiday travel planning, you should always book your flights as early as you can, before others come and snag your seats.
Driving In And Around Charleston
Traffic in and around Charleston can be slow sometimes and during rush hours, traffic can come to a complete halt. Knowing the best routes to take can help reduce your travel time.
As with most large cities, traffic in Charleston tends to be rough during the holiday season due to the increased amount of people traveling in and around the city. In recent years, efforts to reduce traffic slow-downs have been mostly successful, reducing traffic jams on bridges specifically. That said, there are still traffic jams and stoppages during the peak times of the day - from 8 am to 10 am and from 4 pm to 6 pm on weekdays. Be sure to plan ahead and identify alternative routes in the city that will help you to escape bad traffic if the need arises.
From the terminals at Charleston International Airport, Interstate 26 is the nearest highway leading to Charleston. Interstate 26 connects and intersects with Highway 17, which is the highway the majority of people commuting to and traveling from Charleston take on a daily basis, and the likely route you will take into the city as a visitor.
As a result, the traffic at the intersection of Highway 17 and Interstate 26 tends to be extremely difficult to navigate during the peak traffic hours each weekday. Traffic jams are common, so consider taking a route around the intersection to avoid inevitable delays.
Public Transport Options
Charleston has an active and effective public bus system and Park n Ride service in the city through CARTA, the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority, as well as an Amtrak train service.
The public bus offers dozens of different routes traveling through all corners of the city and a variety of different ticket options. Depending on how long you stay, they offer up to one-month passes - some of the shorter duration passes include a single route for $2, a day pass for $7, and a three-day pass for $14.
The Amtrak passenger train service has a stop near the heart of the city in North Charleston, just a few blocks away from Park Circle on Gaynor Avenue. Tickets for the train vary in price depending on your starting location, but there is a multitude of discounts available online ranging from senior to children’s discounts, and discounts for group travel and military personnel.
The Park n Ride service in Charleston covers five locations: North Charleston, Mount Pleasant, West Ashley, James Island, and Summerville. The lots at the Park n Ride stations are monitored 24/7 and are completely free to park your car in and free to use the commuting service into the city. The city aims to reduce traffic by enticing commuters to reduce the number of cars on the road by instead using buses, so there is no charge to the user.
General Traveling Tips for the Holidays:
If you’re planning to rent a car in Charleston during the holidays, consider a smaller sedan rather than the SUV the rental service might try to convince you into. Not only will you save on the upgrade, but you’ll also find it easier to find parking for a smaller vehicle.
Navigating the city during peak traffic times can be tricky, especially if you don’t know your way around very well. Consider using the app called Waze. It’s a phone navigation app that allows you to navigate around traffic and through some of the city’s charming neighborhoods.
The top rated restaurants on Google can be extremely busy during the holiday season, but they aren’t necessarily the best. If you’re on the hunt for local fare, ask around to Charleston business owners for advice. They’ll know all the hidden gems throughout the city.
Overall, don’t forget to slow down and enjoy your holiday. When traveling from city to city, it can be easy to get caught up in a different city’s hustle and bustle. Remember that you’re traveling for the holidays. Slow down and enjoy Charleston’s beautiful surrounding. Safe Travels!