Holiday travel season kicks off Friday

American Airlines' planes are parked at a gate

American Airlines' planes are parked at a gate at LaGuardia Airport earlier this year. (Credit: AP File)

Today marks the kickoff of the holiday getaway season when more drivers are expected to hit the roads and the Long Island Rail Road will offer 14 extra trains for travelers during the upcoming weekend.

Motor vehicle travel from Friday through Jan. 2 in the Middle Atlantic region, which includes New York, is expected to increase 1.8 percent over last year's volume, according to the American Automobile Association. Airline travel, more costly because of recent fare increases, is expected to decline by 8.4 percent in the region, according to research done for AAA.

Cynthia Weinman, 21, from Oceanside, was taking a bus from Manhattan to Boston Thursday night to fly to Florida. "It's $200 cheaper," she said as she waited for the bus outside Penn Station. "This wouldn't be the first time that I went to a different city to fly somewhere."

About one-quarter of the Middle Atlantic region's population is expected to be on the move this holiday season, says Robert Sinclair Jr., media relations manager for AAA in New York. The most popular driving destinations, based on a check of area members' map requests, include Savannah, Ga.; Boca Raton and Orlando in Florida; and Lorton, Va., where many motorists meet up with the Amtrak Auto Train to Florida, he said.

"It is going to be busy," said Sinclair, calling the length of the holiday season "the saving grace" because it is likely that not all people will be traveling at the same time.

Josh Anisansel, 37 and Maria Anisansel, 40, of Rockville Centre, plan to stay close to home for the holidays, but will travel locally during the week.

"We do lots of little day trips -- Bronx Zoo, check out more of the city," said Josh Anisansel.

Officials with the Port Authority said the agency will deploy extra staff to help handle the more than 11 million travelers who will use its airports, tunnels, bridges and PATH system from Friday through the New Year's holiday.

During the same time period, about 1.9 million travelers are expected at Kennedy Airport and 915,000 at LaGuardia Airport, officials said.

Jim Abraham, 70, of Long Beach, will be among them, flying from Kennedy to Charlotte, N.C., to visit family. "We make the trip every six months," he said.

Officials at Ronkonkoma's Long Island MacArthur Airport anticipate a smooth travel season. Friday wraps up the airport's weeklong holiday concert series. "It's very festive," said Teresa Rizzuto, airport commissioner.

The Long Island Rail Road will provide extra early-afternoon service out of Penn Station Friday for riders looking to get an early start to the holiday weekend. Saturday and Christmas Day, the LIRR will run on a weekend/holiday schedule.

The travel forecast calls for clouds and some rain in the morning Friday, mostly cloudy skies Saturday and a chance of rain Sunday.

The Cross Sound Ferry, which transports people and vehicles between Orient Point and New London, Conn., has added extra ferries Friday and Saturday.

"We always expand our schedule this time of year," said Stan Mickus, director of public affairs.

With Patricia Kitchen, Igor Kossov and newsday.com staff

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