Parking at the Victoria International Airport has filled up this week, as travelers go places for the holidays. (File)

Plan ahead for busy holiday travel to and from the Island

Parking spaces hard to come by at Victoria airport, BC Ferries filling up fast

Travellers to and from the Island are warned Environment Canada issued a weather alert Friday that developing weather conditions will likely bring heavy snow to parts of eastern VancouverIsland beginning Sunday.

Whether flying or sailing, it’s a good idea to allow for extra travel time over the holidays, not just because of higher traffic volumes, but for inclement weather as well.

People travelling via the Victoria International Airport this Christmas and New Year’s are being told that parking is at a premium at the airport.

The Victoria Airport Authority (VAA) announced today that its regular parking lots are full. In a statement emailed to local media, the VAA reports people must follow the directions of parking attendants at the airport.

Travellers are being asked to pre-pay for their length of stay at the Exit Booth at the end of the Daily Lot. From there, people will be directed into the airport’s overflow parking areas.

A courtesy shuttle bus will make frequent trips between those overflow parking areas and the main terminal building.

“Victoria Airport Authority (VAA) apologizes for any inconvenience and would like to thank everyone for their patience and cooperation during the busy holiday season,” VAA said.

For more information, visit victoriaairport.com.

Meanwhile, Mike Hooper, Nanaimo Airport president and CEO, said airport staff aren’t expecting any significant delays but recommends travellers arrive earlier than normal anyway.

“Over Christmas you want to come a bit earlier,” Hooper said. “Anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half before their flight is fine.”

Hooper said travellers can always visit the airport’s website to find out about the status of their flight.

Ferry traffic expected to be busy

Traffic over B.C. Ferries’ loading ramps has ramped up as people cross the Salish Sea to visit family and friends over the holidays.

An enhanced schedule that started Thursday and runs until Jan. 2, is boosting B.C. Ferries’ capacity to move people and vehicles by adding more than 175 sailings to its regular schedules. Most of those sailings were added to the Tsawwassen-Schwartz Bay route – the corporation’s busiest route – but 46 of those sailings have been tacked onto the Departure Bay-Horseshoe Bay run.

Deborah Marshall, B.C. Ferries spokeswoman, advises travellers to expect busy days and possible sailing waits from Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen on Dec. 23, 26, 27 and 28. December 27 is expected to be the busiest of all travel days during the Christmas holiday.

“To be honest, we’ve just started the holiday season,” Marshall said. “Traffic started to ramp up. We started extra sailings yesterday and we do have those extra sailings right through until Jan. 2. I’m sure it will be a typical holiday season; lots of families connecting with other families and friends and whatnot. Over this time last year we had about one million passengers and about 400,000 vehicles.”

Departure Bay is the Island’s second busiest terminal, but Duke Point continues to gain popularity with travellers transiting to destinations beyondVancouver, especially since the South Fraser Perimeter Road opened, connecting Tsawwassen to major Lower Mainland routes.

“We do find more customers using it there and, depending on where you’re going in metro Vancouver, it might be a more convenient route to take insteadof driving through Vancouver from Horseshoe Bay and then trying to get downtown,” Marshall said.

Customers are encouraged to plan ahead and consider travelling earlier or later in the day to reduce delays. Reservations are also a good idea — however the availability could be few and far between on the busiest days.

For traffic updates or more information please follow @BCFerries on Twitter, check our website at bcferries.com, or call us toll free at 1-888-BCFERRY (223-3779).

Sea Plane! Sea Plane!

Flights on Harbour Air Seaplanes are also available between the Island and lower mainland. They are open Dec. 24, closed Christmas Day, and open again thereafter (with limited hours on January 1).

Check on flight availability and reservations at harbourair.com.

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