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Millions expected to his roadways over Labor day weekend

August 25, 2003|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

A cautious spring will give way to an adventurous Labor Day weekend, according to AAA, which is predicting high volume for holiday travel.

AAA spokesman John White said people may have postponed travel plans in the spring because of the war in Iraq, a flagging economy and concerns about transportation security.

But consumer confidence and willingness seem to have rebounded, AAA announced, relying on a survey conducted by the Travel Industry Association of America.

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AAA expects more than 33.4 million Americans to travel at least 50 miles this coming weekend, which includes Labor Day next Monday, Sept. 1.

The number of travelers probably will be 2 percent higher than Labor Day 2002 and possibly the highest amount in nine years, according to AAA.

Gas prices are up noticeably from last year, but that may not dampen interest for people planning a Labor Day trip, White said.

"People are making decisions later," he said, referring to all types of travel. "They used to book (trips) six months in advance. Now, on average, it's three weeks in advance."

The average price of one gallon of self-serve regular unleaded gas in Hagerstown was $1.59 on Friday, compared to $1.38 about a year earlier. The figures for Maryland and the United States are similar.

Through an informal survey of vacation plans arranged through nine Maryland offices, AAA found that Williamsburg, Va., was the top destination for Labor Day weekend travelers. Ocean City, Md., and other beaches also were popular.

The top three choices at the Hagerstown office were Ocean City, North Carolina's Outer Banks and Williamsburg, AAA spokeswoman Amanda Knittle said.

In a smaller, even less-formal survey outside Borders Books Music & Cafe in Hagerstown Sunday, three of seven respondents had Labor Day weekend travel plans.

Susan Inguanti of Martinsburg, W.Va., will visit her sister in Centre Valley, Pa.

Stephen and Amy Owens of Cumberland, Md., will attend a convention for cavers near Elkins, W.Va.

Linda Faith of Mercersburg, Pa., said she will take her daughter, Amanda, to Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa. School starts Sept. 1.

Suddenly, Linda Faith remembered that she will take a trip the following weekend: To a bed-and-breakfast in Lancaster, Pa., courtesy of her daughter. The Faiths are celebrating their 29th anniversary.

Asked about her travel plans, Pattie Hutchison of Smithsburg said, "We were just talking about it. We just came back from Cunningham Falls."

The consensus was they would get together with friends for a Labor Day weekend picnic - in Smithsburg.

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