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Holiday travel season officially underway

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POSTED November 24, 2012 1:34 a.m.

It isn’t the gas prices that are keeping Danny Dominguez home this Thanksgiving weekend.

It isn’t the fact that he doesn’t want see his family. It isn’t the fact that he has to work. And it isn’t the fact that discretionary funds simply aren’t there for himn and his family right now.

He just doesn’t want to deal with the hassles of traveling.

Last year when the family loaded up into their SUV and drove down to Southern California for four days, they had a wonderful time. They visited with relatives, enjoyed the temperate climate, and even made a pit stop at Sea World.

But it was the throngs of people everywhere that they went – on the arterial streets and the freeways and especially at the amusement park – that forced Dominguez to reevaluate how he was going to spend his holiday this year.

“I grew up down there, so when I first moved up here it was a different world for me – I was used to the traffic and the people and the fast-pace. It’s different here,” he said. “And I’ve grown to love it. It’s normal to me now. So when I go back it’s just way too much to handle all at once.

“I just thought lying low seemed like a better idea.”

Not everybody else feels the same way.

This year AAA estimates that almost 44 million Americans – roughly 14 percent of the country – will travel 50 miles or more for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. That’s an increase of 0.7 percent over last year, and the fourth consecutive year that the number has grown since it dropped 25 percent in 2008.

But just because they’re willing to gas up and go doesn’t mean that they’re willing to freely open up their pocketbooks.

According to AAA’s survey, median spending for those who hit the road is expected to drop 10 percent from last year to $498. Spending time with friends and family topped the list as the activity people will engage in most while they’re gone – clocking in at 75 percent – while dining was a close second at 56 percent.

And not as many people are expected to fly as compared to last year.

Last year 3.2 million people took to the skies to get where they were going. The not-for-profit member service organization believes that only 3.14 million will travel the same way.

“If I were to visit family, that’s the only way that I’d be able to go,” said Jennifer Gunther. “They’re back east, so I really don’t have anywhere to go. And that’s fine – it’s a chance to catch up on some things that I’m behind on.

“Who wants to brave those lines anyway?”

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