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On The Road Again

Despite a sluggish economy and an Independence Day holiday that falls in the middle of the week, some 36.6 million Americans are expected to hit the road Tuesday and Wednesday.

Mantill Williams, director of public affairs for The American Automobile Association says this figure would have been even higher, except that travel is being spread out during the whole week this year, rather than just concentrated on one long weekend.

For holiday travelers, Williams recommends avoiding these highway construction projects:

  • Northern Virginia: Dubbed the “mixing bowl,” this is the area where three Interstates ( I-95, I-395, I-495) all converge. The roads are being expanded to handle the estimated 400,000 vehicles a day but the entire construction project won’t be finished for eight years.
    How Much For A Holiday?
    Gas isn't the only thing that will cost travelers more this summer. According to AAA, the overall price of vacations will shoot up 5 percent this season, the biggest jump in three years.

    The association's annual survey finds that a family of four can expect to pay $223 a day for meals and accommodations. The daily price of a room and food both increased $5.

    Over the past decade, the average cost of vacationing has increased 24 percent, a relatively slow rise: from 1981-1991, prices rose 105 percent, while from 1971-1981, they rocketed 167 percent.

    For those who want to travel cheap, a few days off in North Dakota are the ticket, at $167 per day. Those wanting to spend top-dollar should head to Hawaii, and be prepared to dish out $417 a day.

    AAA has tracked vacation costs since 1950. The daily cost of food and lodging that year was $13.

  • Boston: The largest traffic construction project in the nation, Boston’s “Big Dig” will take several more years for completion. Highways built to accommodate 90,000 cars a day, are being expanded so that they can handle the current traffic, estimated at 190,000 a day.
  • Los Angeles: Much of the city is prone to holiday traffic snarls, but Williams says the biggest problem is likely to be where four highways – I-5, I-10, I-60 and I-101 – converge. This area can see as many as 566,000 vehicles a day.
  • Chicago: The worst holiday traffic is expected in the area where I 88 and the Eisenhower Expressway merge, sending 120,000 vehicles a day into just one and one-half lanes.
Holiday drivers are being advised to leave plenty of time for their journeys, to plan alternate routes and to pull off the road if they feel sleepy. Police in many states are adding extra patrols to deal with those who drink and drive.

Gas prices have eased off of their highs of earlier this season, but still remain above last year's levels. Supplies appear to be plentiful.

And if you are among those who waited until the last minute to make holiday plans, Tom Parsons. CEO of, has some good news. There are some real air fare deals available at the last minute as carriers try to fill up their flights. A lot depends on the airport you use and the destination you choose, he said.

Even international flights are being discounted now, as they were not just a few weeks ago, he said. He also he expects even better deals in the fall when the busy summer travel season ends.

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