Trotting home for turkey

Senior Jessica Escorborres doesn’t remember ever spending Thanksgiving Day without all of her family members. But because of the nearly $2-per-gallon gas costs, her relatives will spend their first Thanksgiving in different cities.

“I’m upset that I don’t have enough money for gas to pick up my sister in Orlando and drive down to my other sister’s house in Ft. Lauderdale,” Escorborres said. “My sister in Orlando can’t afford to give me gas money either.”

According to a survey done for AAA by the Travel Industry Association of America, this Thanksgiving Day will be the busiest since 2000, with an estimated 30.6 million Americans hitting the road in their cars. A predicted 6.6 million will travel by plane, train or bus.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the number of airline passengers dropped sharply but is steadily rising again. Although fuel price are up and demand is high, airline ticket prices remain relatively low. STA Travel at the Phyllis P. Marshall Center has seen a tremendous turnout for people going up north for the holidays.

“Most people are booking flights to New York,” said Andy Fielding, STA Travel Adviser.

He recommends booking as early as possible to avoid a higher fee for last-minute flight reservations.

“At least I can praise them (students) for booking ahead of time,” Fielding said, although he expects some passengers dropping by today.

The majority of travelers this Thanksgiving Day will commute in cars, despite the steep gas prices, a third higher than a year ago.

Overlooking the expense, senior Vernita Glenn-White said she is looking forward to driving to Orlando and spending time with her family.

“I haven’t seen my family since Mother’s Day,” she said regretfully.

Fielding said students should use STA Travel if flying because it is a worldwide company, so no matter where the traveler goes, he or she will always have to deal with the same company. He added that STA Travel has contracted fares with airlines and can find tickets much cheaper than a regular travel agency.

Fielding has sound advice for people flying somewhere for end-of-the-year holidays, which provide the biggest influx of travelers around the country:

“Book your tickets early and don’t pick popular days,” he said.

He recommends that students pick weekdays, off-peak days and red-eye flights, which are early in the morning or late at night.

The Federal Aviation Administration reports that airports will be most heavily crowded today, with more than 51,000 departing flights. The Transportation Security Administration, which oversees passenger screening, has set up a Web site that gives estimated wait times at every airport at for those traveling this holiday season.