11/22/06 — Traffic slow but expected to pick up

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Traffic slow but expected to pick up

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on November 22, 2006 1:46 PM

Motel parking lots in Goldsboro looked lonely this morning, and gas station attendants said they haven't seen many travelers passing through in the past couple of days.

But that doesn't mean they aren't preparing for the annual rush of Thanksgiving weekend travel.

The crew at Kwik Mart at the intersection of U.S. 70 and Claridge Nursery Road said traffic this morning was about the same as usual. One customer said the weather was too ugly to make a trip.

Donald Geiger in the Amoco station at Berkeley Boulevard and New Hope Road said he is hoping most travelers have already reached their destinations. That is what he would do if he didn't have to work on Thanksgiving Day, he said.

"That's wise. Travel Tuesday, cook Wednesday and enjoy Thanksgiving," he said this morning. "All my folks are gassing up to go to work."

Statewide, the AAA Motor Club said record numbers of people are saying they plan to be on the road this Thanksgiving. More than ever are saying they're going to stay with friends or relatives rather than in hotels.

Sarah Davis in the Charlotte office of AAA Carolinas motorist said travelers can expect to pay more for hotels and car rentals this holiday season. The motor club has found holiday hotel rates up 16 percent, and rental car rates about 21 percent higher.

Ms. Davis said nearly 70 percent of travelers say they plan to stay with friends or relatives this Thanksgiving. Last Thanksgiving, about 55 percent of the travelers surveyed said they planned to stay with friends or relatives.

Gas prices are about 8 cents lower across the state than they were a year ago and nearly 60 cents lower than they were at Labor Day. Gas prices ranged between $2.13 and $2.20 per gallon across most of Wayne County today.

Ms. Davis said auto travel is expected to be up 3 percent from last year, with more than a million North Carolinians drivers hitting the roads this holiday.

North Carolina had 25 highway deaths during Thanksgiving last year, and the AAA Motor Club recommends drivers take the following precautions this holiday weekend:

*Get a vehicle checkup before hitting the road. Be sure to check fluids and tires, especially the spare tire.

*Take a break every two hours or 150 miles if traveling long distances.

*On extra long trips, switch drivers. Somebody who has been sitting in the back seat is best. AAA has found that the front seat passenger can often become as fatigued as the driver from paying attention to the road.

*Add about 15 minutes to every hour the trip typically takes to avoid speeding or becoming frustrated.

Meanwhile, the cost of the air travel alternative is expected to increase by about $7 for an average ticket. And the flyers can expect to encounter tougher security measures at airports. Ms. Davis said many will be facing the new liquid restrictions for the first time. The new rule is called the 3-1-1 rule and allows containers that are 3 ounces or smaller. These containers of liquid can be transported in carry-on bags, provided the liquid containers fit inside a 1-quart clear plastic zip-top bag. Only one bag per passenger is allowed.

Stefanie Hawkins in the Quixote Travels office said airline traffic has been about the same as it was last year. Many flights are sold out, she said.

"People still have a tendency to wait until the last minute, especially when the weather is bad," she said. "These planes are very full, and if anybody has not already booked now for Christmas, I doubt they'll get a good rate."

Thanksgiving travelers have less flexibility than those whose children get out of school two weeks for Christmas, she said.

"Last-minute travelers paid a pretty penny for Thanksgiving," she said. "I have a business client who had to fly out Monday. He paid $900 to go to Oklahoma City and back. Only first class was available. He got the last seat on the plane. I said, 'Are you nuts? Whoever can't get back on Sunday is going to be coming back Monday.' But he had to go."