Planning Holiday Travels
What is your getaway day? This year, the Christmas holiday will create a four-day weekend for many -- sort of a Thanksgiving weekend in reverse, with the holiday at the end of the four days.
Our region is likely to see its worst traffic congestion on Friday afternoon and evening. But John Townsend of AAA Mid-Atlantic says an AAA survey suggests there will be several difficult travel days, starting with today:
"Wednesday, December 19, is the third biggest travel day in the period," he said in an e-mail. In the AAA survey 16.4 percent of travelers indicate they will be leaving today, and plan to spend the longest time away from home, averaging nine nights.
Who's able to get this early jump? People without children, of course. "In fact," Townsend said, "our research shows that nearly half of the overall traveling population this holiday will not be traveling with kids."
Then we've got Friday as the big getaway day. Townsend noted that long-distance travelers will join homeward bound commuters on our roads: "Since kids will be getting out of school this Friday and parents taking off work early, one can expect a lot of competition for the piece of real estate on area roadways. From Friday afternoon until around nine Friday night, it will be bumper to bumper, as hundreds of thousands ride the brakes out of the metro area."
Your fellow drivers during a holiday period are different from your companions on the daily commute, when solo drivers dominate the roads: The highest percentage of people traveling this holiday will have two or three people in their party, according to the survey. Still, Townsend said, more than a third of people traveling this holiday will be traveling alone.
He noted this about my comparison to the typical four-day Thanksgiving getaway: The highest percent of trvelers in the AAA survey are planning to leave Friday and return six days later. "So in this sense," he said, "the Christmas vacation period stretches a tad longer than Thanksgiving."
If Friday is the biggest travel day and Wednesday the third biggest, what's No. 2? Saturday.
And though New Year's Day also sets up a four-day weekend, the AAA survey found that far fewer people are likely to use that period as a weekend getaway.
What other information should we share to make this a peaceful season for travelers?
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