Spread-out holidays ease trips as weather improves but costs rise

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NEW YORK | As travelers take to road, air and sky in the sometimes hectic last days before Christmas, they should keep one thing in mind: It could be worse.

Planes took off into windy but accommodating skies Thursday morning at New York’s LaGuardia Airport as Steve Kent prepared to fly to Denver for a family ski trip, scoffing at the puny lines.

“I don’t find it that difficult,” he said. “I think Thanksgiving is harder.”

Though Christmas and New Year’s travel is expected to be up from last year, the spread-out nature of these holidays means things won’t be quite so cramped as Thanksgiving, for instance, when practically everyone who’s going somewhere is on the move on the same day.

“We have a lot of folks who already may have taken off of work,” said Troy Green, a spokesman for AAA. “They may have arrived at their destination before today.”

Mike Lukosavich of Harrison Township, Mich., was surprised the first leg of his trip was moving so smoothly when he stopped at a rest area on the Ohio Turnpike in Elmore, near Toledo.

He, his wife and their 8-month-old daughter were heading to see family in Parkersburg, W.Va. His only headache came when he saw the gas price of about $3 a gallon.

“It’s something you have to do to see the family,” said Mr. Lukosavich, 33.

AAA has expected overall travel to rise about 3 percent this year, with more than 92 million people planning to go more than 50 miles sometime between now and Jan. 2. More than 90 percent said they would be driving.

The Air Transport Association was expecting 44.3 million people on U.S. flights between Dec. 16 and Jan. 5 — up 3 percent over the same period a year ago but still below pre-recession travel volume. The average ticket price is $421, up by 5 percent.

The Vino Volo Wine Room at Detroit Metropolitan Airport is benefiting from more travelers, manager Mark Del Duco said Thursday.

“The Christmas mood is more there this year than last,” he said, estimating that sales are up 10 percent this season compared with last year as financially confident travelers spend more freely.

Some travelers weren’t thrilled about their mode of transportation. Anthony Lauro joined nearly 100 people lined up Thursday morning for a Montreal-bound coach at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s bus terminal in midtown Manhattan. He faced an eight-hour ride to see his fiancee there.

“Flying to Canada is astronomically overpriced,” he said.

Helping matters is that the most densely populated parts of the country are getting a break from the weather.

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