Increase in air, car travel expected for July 4 weekend

Higher gas, hotel prices won't be enough to keep people home, AAA says

June 30, 2005|By Rhasheema A. Sweeting | Rhasheema A. Sweeting,SUN STAFF

Despite a rise in gas and hotel prices, more people are expected to travel by car or plane during the July Fourth holiday weekend than last year.

About 678,900 of the more than 5 million Maryland residents plan to travel 50 miles or more during the three-day weekend, according to a survey by AAA Mid-Atlantic.

Nationally, AAA estimates that 40.3 million people plan to travel 50 miles or more - a 2.8 percent increase from the Fourth of July last year. Of those traveling, 84 percent will drive, 11 percent will fly and 5 percent will use other modes of transportation, including train or bus.

The top driving destinations for Marylanders this year include Ocean City; Williamsburg, Va.; Walt Disney World and Orlando, Fla.; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; and Maine. The top flying destinations are New York, Orlando and Las Vegas, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.

About 480,000 travelers will fly in or out of Baltimore-Washington International Airport between today and Wednesday, including an estimated 79,000 tomorrow, according to Holly Ellison, deputy director for communications for the airport - a slight increase from last year.

"In the general trend, Americans are taking more vacations that are shorter," said Amanda Knittle, spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic. The association estimates that three-quarters of adults plan to take leisure trips this summer, with the average trip about four nights.

The increased cost of traveling doesn't appear to be deterring many vacations and getaways. Car rental prices have increased nearly 13 percent from a year ago, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic. Hotel rates are slightly higher while airfares are slightly lower than last year, AAA reported.

The national average for regular unleaded gas is $2.21 per gallon - 30 cents higher than the average of $1.91 a year ago. The state's average of $2.21 per gallon is up from $1.94 a year ago.

Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration is working with the Maryland Aviation Administration to ensure travel is smooth during the holiday crush. The FAA is working to improve overall communication and offers Web updates on airport wait times, weather and delays. The information can also be accessed through a Web-enabled phone or similar hand-held device through a wireless portal on the FAA Web site, Sue O'Brien-Knox, acting air traffic manager for the FAA, said yesterday at a news conference at BWI.

Travel tips By air:

Travel as early in the morning as possible.

Avoid traveling between the peak hours of 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Check for airport delays, weather and wait times before departures. By car:

Plan to stop every two hours, or every 150 miles, to stretch and take a break.

Slow down and be aware of work zones.

Before traveling, have your vehicle engine fluids, battery, hoses, tires and lights checked by a qualified automotive technician.

Have an emergency kit that includes a flashlight, flares, jumper cables and a first-aid kit.

Always pull as far off the shoulder as possible should your vehicle become disabled.

If consuming alcoholic beverages, eat before and during the party. Stop drinking at least two hours before driving. Identify a designated driver or call a cab to ensure a safe ride home.

Sources: Federal Aviation Administration, AAA Mid-Atlantic

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