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Many plan to stay home this weekend

September 01, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

Labor Day weekend travel is expected to increase slightly over last year's holiday, with most people choosing to drive, according to AAA officials.

Nearly all of those interviewed Thursday in Washington County said they planned to stay home this weekend, citing traffic and busy schedules, not gas prices, as their reasons for not traveling.

More than 663,000 Maryland residents are expected to travel 50 miles or more from their homes, according to AAA. Nationally, 35.2 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more, a 1.2 percent increase from the 34.8 million who did so last year.

Ragina C. Averella, spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said high gas prices and earlier starts to the school year are to blame for the small increase.

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Michele Mauck, 40, of Hagerstown, said this will be the first Labor Day weekend in a few years that her family did not travel.

"We're going to get together with family and have a picnic, if the weather holds out," she said.

Mauck said her family was too busy this year to travel over the long weekend.

Of those who do plan to travel, the majority - 84 percent of all holiday travelers nationwide - will do so by car, truck or recreational vehicle.

Mary Meyers, 55, of Hagerstown, said her son and daughter-in-law are expected to drive from Baltimore on Saturday. If they decide not to make the trip, tough - Meyers said she will just stay home.

"We just want to stay away from all of the traffic," she said. "It's too stressful."

Jimmy Manion, 46, of Sharpsburg, said he plans to spend Labor Day weekend in his backyard by the pool. When asked why he didn't plan to travel, he said, "The same reason I don't like to come (to Hagerstown) on the weekends. To avoid bad drivers."

AAA reported this week that gas prices have been falling across the state for several weeks.

"We typically see a fall in the gasoline prices after the Labor Day weekend when the summer driving season officially ends," Averella said. "However, a drop of 20 cents in 2 1/2 weeks is certainly atypical, and should be a welcomed sight for (travelers)."

AAA officials said the recent dip in fuel prices was the largest drop since the 20-cent decline in September 2005. Despite the drop in fuel prices, travelers still are paying more for fuel than they were a year ago, and the near-record high gasoline prices might not have an effect on the number of travelers, but it will affect how far they travel.

The average price of a gallon of regular fuel nationally Thursday was about $2.81, according to AAA. The average price in Maryland was $2.85, down about 1 cent since Wednesday, and nearly 25 cents since last month.

The average price for a gallon of regular fuel in Hagerstown on Thursday was $2.82, according to AAA, down about 1 cent since Wednesday, and about 12 cents since last month.

"Because of the sting at the pump motorists have seen this summer, research shows that Marylanders who will travel by automobile this Labor Day weekend are likely to venture to vacation sites closer to home," Averella said.

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