AKRON, Ohio – This year’s holiday travel season could be among the busiest on record.
AAA projects 98.6 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the season that officially begins Tuesday, Dec. 23 and continues through Jan. 4.
But holiday travelers are already making their way through airports and onto the highways.
At the Akron-Canton Airport, the season is expected to be the busiest holiday travel season in the airport's history.
"That's definitely what we are seeing here," said Kristie Van Auken, the airport's senior vice president.
Nationally, an improved economy and airfares that the AAA says are as much as 7 percent lower than last year have contributed.
"Southwest, who is our largest carrier at Akron Canton, has some really great fares going to places like Orlando, Tampa, Fort Meyers, New York, Boston those are great places to spend the holiday," Van Auken said.
"Southwest is flying bigger airplanes. They acquired Air Tran Airways and that acquisition, that conversion here at CAK finished up in November so that means that every flight aboard Southwest is on a very big comfy 737, 143 seats. You get on you could choose your own seat. It's pretty slick," she added.
Ohio is expected to have the most air passengers coming and going from airports since 2004.
Lee Harris, of Akron, is flying to visit relatives even though that has not been his Christmas routine.
"Most of our family is now relocating around the country so it’s not a big deal to stay here in Ohio, so I’m just doing it for myself, my wife, going on vacation where it's nice and warm.”
Nancy Rudge, of Avon Lake, was also taking a trip with her husband to visit relatives for the holidays.
"We are going to spend Christmas, rather than at home, we are going to spend Christmas with our son and our grandchild aboard a Mississippi river boat. It just sounded like a fun thing to do for Christmas.”
Although airports are expected to be crowded, AAA believes most people will be travelling on the roads.
Its travel volume projections are the highest since 2001, when the AAA started keeping such records. Falling gasoline prices are expected to entice people to consider travel.
For those who are flying, Van Auken recommends giving yourself extra time to get through airport security and checking ahead with airlines to make sure flights are on schedule.
"Be sure to come to the airport with a charged cell phone and a charger. You are going to want that in case there are weather delays and you can be in contact with people on the other end so it is Northeast Ohio and weather can happen here. It can happen at other places too so pack a little extra patience and allow a little extra time, maybe 90 minutes when you are flying from CAK this season," Van Auken said.