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Record number of Americans expected to travel this holiday season

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Whether it be by plane, train or automobile, Americans are expected to travel this holiday season at an all-time high.

The AAA estimates 107.3 million Americans will travel this season, from now until just after the start of the new year. Most, the organization anticipates, will go by car. With Christmas Day and New Year's Day both falling on Mondays, most of the travel is expected to take place from Thursday through Saturday leading up to the respective holidays.

Preparations are also underway to accommodate a rise in air traffic at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

"Typically, once the schools let out, that's a big time when they're going away for Christmas," said Bill Vanacek, Director of Aviation for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority. "But they're also coming in. It's really two-way traffic. I would argue that in a city like Buffalo, you'll probably have more traffic coming our way than going the other way. That's typically true around Thanksgiving and it's always the same way when it comes to Christmas."

For those who travel by car, gas prices are higher than last year but now, according to AAA officials, enough to deter most travelers.

"Right now, the national average is $2.43," said Elizabeth Carey of the AAA of Western and Central New York. "In New York State it's $2.63. In Buffalo, we're paying $2.64 right now. Syracuse is a lot cheaper than Buffalo, if you're going to Central New York to visit family over the holidays."

Carey encourages travelers to make sure they are full prepared before leaving, including checks to make sure their vehicle is in good working order. AAA officials also recommend packing provisions such as jumper cables, a cell phone charger, blankets and snacks in case of a car breaking down in cold weather.

"The most common calls we get at AAA are for the most common things: dead batteries, flat tires and keys locked in the car," Carey said. "I think one of the big mistakes people make is not having their car checked over beforehand and maybe being in too much of a rush, where they'll lock the keys in the car. We're encouraging everyone to take their time and check their car over before they take their trip and try to avoid a lot of those hassles."

Vanacek also recommended better preparation, including early arrival to the terminal. Their goal at the airport, he told WBFO, is to keep moving people on schedule to the best of their control.

"Their shouldn't be any delays, that's what I like to tell everybody but you never know," he said. "You can get a delay that creates some issues for us here. We want to make sure there are enough people on hand to staff the inside of the terminal.

"And, of course, we've got the best snow removal team in the country sitting here to make sure our runways and taxiways are open."

Travelers bringing gifts are urged not to wrap them in advance of the trip. Those traveling by air and those crossing into Canada by car will be subject to searches and agents will unwrap the gifts in order to better inspect the contents.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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