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Driving home for Thanksgiving? You're not alone

31 million others will be joining you on the freeway

By Chris McGinnis
CNN Headline News

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Be prepared for traffic tie-ups, especially on the Wednesday before or the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

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(CNN) -- Each year the travel stats come out about this time, and this year is no different. AAA estimates that 36 million of us will travel 50 or more miles from home during next week's Thanksgiving holiday. That usually results in stories about how crowded airports are going to be and more advice about not packing your new hunting knife in your carry-on bag.

But the fact is that just over 4.5 million are flying home for the holiday. So here's some advice for the 31.1 million (86 percent of all holiday travelers) that AAA expects to go over the river and through the woods by car this year.

Control

The best part about a trip by car is that you are in complete control of your schedule. You leave when you want to, drive as long as you feel like it, and eat what and when you want to. You do not feel enslaved by tight airline schedules, bad weather, security lines, flight delays, baggage searches or crabby flight attendants. Think about all those frustrations as you cruise out of your driveway in complete control. Nice!

Traffic

Be prepared for traffic tie-ups, especially on the Wednesday before or the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

Lodging

If you are visiting relatives, insist on staying at a nearby hotel instead of crowding in their house. You are doing everyone a favor by doing so. I promise. The standard roadside motel that you may remember from family vacations long ago has all but disappeared. The major hotel chains have poured millions into new construction along the nation's highways, and most now provide updated amenities like phones with data ports, larger desks, cable television, secure interior entrances and free continental breakfasts.

Hotel costs

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Motel rates are usually dirt cheap during the Thanksgiving holiday. On the budget end of the scale (about $50 per night), Comfort Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Baymont Inn, Fairfield Inn and Microtel are basic, but just fine. However, if you are staying more than a day or two, I suggest paying a bit more for a nicer Hampton Inn, which runs in the $70-$80 range.

Road food

You'll need sustenance before you get to the feast. Many truck stop restaurants (my fave: Country Market restaurants at Flying J truck stops) offer great homemade soups, local veggies and salads. Also, many truck stops now offer Wi-Fi hotspots, so you can check your e-mail while you eat or fill up.

How long?

I've found that a decent day's trip (on freeways) is about 500 miles. If you really push hard, or if you have someone to share driving with, you should be able to cover 700 miles in a long day.

Entertainment

Most large bookstores now carry an extensive selection of books on tape or CD, which are a fantastic way to while away the long hours on the road. Be sure and choose one that appeals to everyone in the car.

Have a great trip! And when the road seems long and tiresome, just imagine what you're missing at the airport.


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