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Travelers hit roads for holiday

Car packed? Alarm set? Kids groaning? Then you’re like 28 million other Americans who plan to drive 100 miles or more for Thanksgiving, officials from the American Automobile Association said.

Wednesday, November 24, 1999

Car packed? Alarm set? Kids groaning? Then you’re like 28 million other Americans who plan to drive 100 miles or more for Thanksgiving, officials from the American Automobile Association said.

AAA’s annual poll projects an increase in total travelers this holiday, from 33.6 million to 33.8 million on the move.

Estimates show the highest volume of motorists will come from the southeastern states with 7 million, followed by the west with 5.7 million.

And, for those motorists, the danger level is high because big rigs don’t take a holiday this time of year, AAA said.

Big truck traffic is heavy during this week’s unofficial start of the Christmas shopping season as more goods are delivered to stores and homes.

In the meantime, if travel agents aren’t booking for December specialty tours this week, then they’re booking for Y2K, American Dream Cruise and Travel agent Bridget Johnson said.

There’s the Bengals vs. Browns game Dec. 12.

There’s Colonial Williamsburg at Christmastime.

Or, there are those who favor ocean cruise tickets and getaways to Hawaii, Ms. Johnson said.

"When it gets cold, people head to warmer places," she said.

Overall, destination traveling for Christmas, or just winter, seems to be increasing, Ms. Johnson said.

First, winter is prime season for island resorts and the tropics. And, second, people are looking for deals around spring break and graduation, she said.

"Right now we’re booking for 2000," she said. "Everybody’s getting ready, looking ahead, and that’s good, because that’s the key to good deals."

The agency has helped many arrange Christmas travel plans on airlines and trains as they head to family gatherings.

And, it’s not too late to get a good deal, Ms. Johnson said.

"Amtrak has 50 percent off for children during the holiday season," she said, adding that destinations like Illinois, Washington, D.C., or New York City are populare picks for families.

There are not too many deals with airlines, but it’s the earlier the better when it comes to price, Ms. Johnson said.

"Call your friendly travel agent and when you decide where to go, let them handle the booking to find the best deals," she said.

If you decide to drive, though, especially at Thanksgiving, AAA has a little advice.

Because one out of eight traffic fatalities in 1998 resulted from a collision involving a large truck, AAA suggests drivers follow these tips around the big rigs:

– Don’t tailgate, because trucks can’t see you directly behind them.

– Watch out for other truck blind spots, not only behind them but also alongside, especially near the rear wheels.

– When passing give yourself plenty of time. It can take 25 or 30 seconds to pass a long tractor trailer. Wait until you see both headlights (or front grill) in your mirror before moving back over.

– Remember it takes a long time for a truck to stop, almost twice as long as cars at highway speed.

– Trucks make wide turns. When turning, their mirrors are useless.

– Trucks create wind gusts. When passing keep both hands on the steering wheel.

If you’re traveling with children, try these AAA tips:

– Secure children in safety seats or seat belts, as required by law.

– Outfit them in comfortable clothes that are warm or cool enough.

– Pack special snacks and favorite toys that are appropriate for in-vehicle use.

– Bring books, compact games and puzzles that can be used quietly.

– Let children choose a radio station, tape or CD they like.

– Play recorded stories and songs.

– Bring a pillow so your child can sleep comfortably.