WASHINGTON – If they aren’t already carving the turkey at home this holiday, Marylanders will want to escape to places as far away from the big city as possible — and straight into fantasy worlds removed from the events of this past fall.
With gas prices in the state 33 cents lower than they were last Thanksgiving, Marylanders are expected to hit the road in roughly the same numbers this year, according to estimates by the American Automobile Association.
But New York City, a traditionally popular Thanksgiving destination, was edged out of Maryland’s top three holiday choices by quaint towns like Lancaster, Pa., famous for its Amish population, and Williamsburg, Va., which features historical re-enactments.
Orlando, Fla., with its easy access to Walt Disney World and other theme parks, also made the top three vacation spots for Marylanders this holiday.
“There’s a lot of research out there that people don’t want to travel to the big cities,” said Myra Wieman, public affairs manager for the AAA’s mid- Atlantic region. Destinations like Lancaster, on the other hand, are “peaceful,” she said.
The AAA estimates that 600,000 Maryland residents will be driving more than 50 miles from home this Thanksgiving, part of the 30 million holiday motorists expected nationwide. The estimated number of Maryland travelers is just 1.1 percent lower than last year’s number, Wieman said.
Extra state troopers will patrol over the holiday in anticipation of heavier traffic, possibly a result of travelers avoiding airlines, said Cpl. Rob Moroney of the Maryland State Police.
Maryland will join state police departments along the East Coast in Operation CARE, the Combined Accident Reduction Effort. It enlists a cross- section of employees, ranging from administrative workers to regular highway patrolmen, to monitor the roads one day each out of the holiday weekend.
Officers will particularly target speeders or those driving aggressively or under the influence.
Moroney cautioned drivers to inspect their vehicles before packing up to leave. A sudden change in this fall’s abnormally warm weather could be all it takes to ruin holiday plans.
“Vehicles don’t adjust well to that first cold snap, and a lot of vehicles break down,” Moroney said.
Check fluid levels, tire pressure and belts on the car. If there is time, take cars to a local service station for a professional inspection, he said.
Following the check-up, Maryland is a good place to fill up, with gasoline prices on par with the national average of $1.20 per gallon. But drivers heading for Ohio, South Carolina and Virginia should hold out as long as possible — prices there and in other states are at or below $1.10, Wieman said, and some areas are below $1.00.
Motorists will enjoy highways cleared for travel, said Kellie Boulware, spokeswoman for the State Highway Administration. The administration is suspending all road construction and clearing all lanes of roadblocks, except for emergencies, beginning at 6 a.m. Wednesday and ending at 9 a.m. the following Monday, Nov. 26.