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Travel season gets going ... and going ... and going

By Marnie Hunter
CNN

Travelers arrive at the departure area of Logan International Airport in Boston, Massachusetts, on Tuesday.
Travelers arrive at the departure area of Logan International Airport in Boston, Massachusetts, on Tuesday.

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(CNN) -- As Thanksgiving cooks are hitting the grocery stores, their guests are loading suitcases and taking to the roads and skies.

According to AAA estimates, more Americans will travel this holiday period than last year, with 36 million traveling 50 miles or more from home. That's up 2.4 percent from 2002, when 35.2 million traveled over Thanksgiving.

The vast majority of those travelers, 86 percent -- or approximately 31.1 million, are expected to travel by motor vehicle, a 2.5 percent increase from last year's 30.3 million road travelers.

Dominic DeJoseph, 37, a filmmaker who lives in Brooklyn, New York, expects heavy traffic on his 130-mile drive to see his parents in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. He's planning to leave Wednesday night or possibly Thursday morning, depending on traffic reports.

"I'm expecting it to be pretty awful," he said. "I'm taking Interstate 80. I have to cross through Manhattan and then the Lincoln Tunnel, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, so I think it'll be hell."

Liz Neblett, a spokeswoman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, advises travelers to expect traffic and plan for it.

"Allow plenty of time to get there, make sure your vehicle is in good shape, and make sure, No. 1, that you're buckled up and No. 2, if you do drink, get a designated driver," she said.

Last year, 543 people died in traffic crashes during the Thanksgiving holiday period, according to the NHTSA. Forty-seven of those fatalities were alcohol-related.

Many drivers hope to skirt some of the congestion by avoiding travel on Wednesday and Sunday, the busiest days of the holiday period.

That's Cali Garner's game plan. Garner, 28, a Web and graphic designer living in Atlanta, Georgia, planned to leave for Tallahassee, Florida, around noon Tuesday. She'll head on to Sarasota later in the week and probably drive home on Saturday.

"I'd like to come back on Sunday, but I'm really scared I'll be sitting in traffic for 12 hours," she said.

Easing hassles

Travelers taking to the skies also should expect an uptick in holiday traffic. AAA estimates that 4.6 million Americans plan to fly this year, up nearly 1 percent from last Thanksgiving.

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge urged Americans on Tuesday to remain vigilant during the holiday period, saying the threat of terror attacks remains high, Reuters reported. (Full story)

To ease the security screening process at airports, the Transportation Security Administration recommends putting all loose keys, change and cell phones in carry-on bags before going through security checkpoints. Passengers also should take laptops out of carrying cases and remove coats to avoid a secondary hand-wand inspection.

According to AAA estimates, more Americans will travel this holiday period than last year, with 36 million traveling 50 miles or more from home.
According to AAA estimates, more Americans will travel this holiday period than last year, with 36 million traveling 50 miles or more from home.

The loss of thousands of full-time screening positions earlier this year should not negatively affect the holiday travel period, according to TSA spokesman Brian Turmail.

"Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year's are things you plan for, and you make sure you get your staff available," he said. Leave has been canceled and federal screeners are working overtime during the holiday period, Turmail said.

"We're really more worried about bad weather this Thanksgiving, which will definitely have an impact on the whole wait process at airports," he said.

Natascha French, 23, an employee at a risk-management firm in Washington, planned to arrive at Washington Dulles International Airport at 4:00 or 4:30 p.m. Tuesday for her 6:00 p.m. flight to Los Angeles International Airport. She was hoping to beat some of the holiday crowds.

"I forget how bad Thanksgiving can be," she said.


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