Harrisburg, PA - According to a recent report by AAA, 93.3 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home from Dec. 22 to Jan. 1, marking an increase of 1.6 percent over last year. Of those traveling, about 90 percent of travelers will drive and they'll be going farther than last Christmas — an average of 760 miles compared to 726. Analysts predict only a few more people are expected on the road and fewer will be flying than last year.
Another factor helping holiday travel decisions is cost. The price of gasoline is expected to drop slowly through the end of the year and average about $3.30 a gallon nationally during the holiday, according to AAA.
The U.S. airline industry expects 42 million passengers to fly from Dec. 17 through Jan. 6 which is down about 1 percent or 300,000 people from last year, the industry group Airlines for America says. The group attributes the slight drop to a still tepid economy. But that doesn't mean planes will be less packed, according to John Heimlich, the group's chief economist, who expects planes to be 86 percent full on average during the holidays.
According to a USA Today article, airlines have trimmed the number of seats they make available by cutting flights or going to smaller aircraft to keep planes more filled in a bid to make profits. They've also bumped fares up seven times this year, though the Transportation Department reports that airfares now are about 14 percent less than in 2000 because they have not kept pace with inflation.
The busiest days to fly:
The weekend before Christmas
Dec. 21, 22 and 23,
The day after Christmas
Hotel rooms are up slightly over last year, AAA says, and rental car rates are up 41 percent. Renting a car this holiday will cost an average of $55 a day compared to $40 last year, the group calculates. Despite higher rental rates, Enterprise Rent-a-Car reported Wednesday that advance reservations are up 25 percent over last year. The company attributes the rise to the popularity of traveling by car this time of year.
"Year-over-year we've generally seen an increase in reservations for the Christmas holiday," said Steve Short, an Enterprise vice president.
As a gift to our valued travelers and loyal guests, the Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau has asked our local travel experts to give us some easy travel tips to pass along this holiday season. We wish everyone a happy holiday and a New Year full of safe travel and amazing lifetime experiences.
Top Tips for Holiday Flying
A gift from the Harrisburg International Airport
Friend of the Bureau and Deputy Director of Marketing & Public Relations at Harrisburg International Airport (MDT), Scott Miller, shared a few helpful tips for those planning to take to the air during the busy holiday travel season between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.
“The key for a successful and less stressful trip is to be prepared,” said Miller. “By following some simple suggestions, flying via MDT or any airport for that matter, can become a bit easier and more convenient.”
1) Be an informed packer
For specific details, visit www.tsa.dhs.gov before you pack your bags.
2) Keep flight info handy
Call your airline’s toll-free flight tracking phone number or visit their website to set up email/text alerts for updates on your flight before coming to the airport. Flight status information is also available on your airline’s website.
3) Arrive early
Arrive at a MDT parking lot about 90-minutes before your scheduled departure.
4) Know where to park
Follow the signs and park in the Long Term/Economy lot. Shuttle buses run 24 hours a day, every 8-10 minutes from the numbered shelters in the lot and bring you curbside at the terminal building.
5) Picking up a guest
When picking up a passenger arriving at MDT, please use our free cell phone lot until your passenger arrives. Federal security mandates prohibit parking along the terminal curbside. Only the active loading and unloading of a vehicle is permitted in front of the terminal building.
6) Don't wrap your gifts just yet
Regarding the holiday gifts and food you want to travel with: gifts packed in your carry-on and checked luggage should be unwrapped. Don't pack snow globes in your carry-on luggage, please put them in your checked luggage. Please be sure to review the TSA's policies for how to travel with holiday foods.
7) Finally, we ask that you bring patience and a smile
Weather is always an important factor in travel and delays can happen at any time. The airlines want to get you to your destination safely and on time, while the TSA has a responsibility to make sure that everyone getting on an aircraft is doing so without any prohibited items.
Top Tips for Holiday Driving
A gift from the AAA Central Penn Chapter
The Director of Marketing and Public Relations at the AAA Central Penn Chapter in the Hershey Harrisburg Region, Shawn Kaup, has important tips for those planning to drive during the busy holiday travel season.
“Cars need periodic checkups to maintain safety and maximize efficiency.” said Kaup. “Properly preparing your vehicle for the winter is essential for the safety of your passengers and will greatly decrease the chances of your vehicle letting you down during holiday travel,”
Winter Car Care Checklist
AAA recommends that motorists use a simple checklist to determine their vehicle’s winter maintenance needs. Most of the items on the list can be inspected by a car owner in less than an hour. See the list on the following page.
- Battery and Charging System
Have the battery and charging system tested by a trained technician. A fully charged battery in good condition is required to start an engine in cold weather. AAA members can request a visit from a AAA Mobile Battery Service technician who will test their battery and replace it on-site, if necessary. AAA Approved Auto Repair shops can also test and replace weak batteries.
2) Winter Car Care Checklist
Tire Type and Tread – In areas with heavy winter weather, installing snow tires on all four wheels will provide the best winter traction. All-season tires work well in light-to -moderate snow conditions provided they have adequate tread depth. Replace any tire that has less than 3/32-inches of tread. Uneven tire wear can indicate alignment, wheel balance or suspension problems that must be addressed to prevent further tire damage.
Tire Pressure – Check tire inflation pressure on all four tires and the spare more frequently in fall and winter. As the average temperature drops, so will tire pressures – typically by one PSI for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit. The proper tire pressure levels can be found in the owner’s manual or on a sticker typically located on the driver’s side door jamb.
Air Filter – Check the engine air filter by holding it up to a 60-watt light bulb. If light can be seen through much of the filter, it is still clean enough to work effectively. However, if light is blocked by most of the filter, replace it.
- – Check the operation of all headlights, taillights, brake lights, turn signals, emergency flashers and back-up lights. Replace any burnt out bulbs.
Wiper Blades – The blades should completely clear the glass with each swipe. Replace any blade that leaves streaks or misses spots. In areas with snow, consider installing winter wiper blades that wrap the blade frame in a rubber boot to reduce ice and snow buildup that can prevent good contact between the blade and the glass.
Washer Fluid – Fill the windshield washer fluid reservoir with a winter cleaning solution that has antifreeze components to prevent it from freezing.
3) Emergency Road Kit
The kit should include:
- Drinking water
- First-aid kit
- Non-perishable snacks for both human and pet passengers
- Bag of abrasive material (sand, salt, cat litter) or traction mats
- Snow shovel
- Extra warm clothing (gloves, hats, scarves)
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Window washer solvent
- Ice scraper with brush
- Cloth or roll of paper towels
- Jumper cables
- Warning devices (flares or triangles)
- Basic toolkit (screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrench)