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Holiday travelers brace for crowds

By Billy Corriher

With 1.9 million Georgians expected to travel to be with loved ones for the holidays, Rex resident Ben Walker said his family was flying to Pennsylvania on Friday morning to get ahead of the rush.

"We figured if we left today, it wouldn't be that bad," he said.

Walker is one of almost 500,000 Georgia residents expected to fly over the holidays, according to AAA spokesman Gregg Laskoski.

Tuesday and Wednesday will probably be the busiest days for fliers, Laskoski said.

To save time at airport security, fliers should make sure none of their carry-on luggage contains prohibited items, said Yolanda Clark, Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman.

"One of the things we're asking passengers to start thinking about when they first start packing their luggage is going through the security checkpoints," she said. "Believe it or not, we still get people with guns, knives and box-cutters."

Clark also suggests leaving presents unwrapped, in case they need to be screened.

"If a wrapped gift sets off an alarm, we will have to unwrap it," she said.

Parents who are flying with children should also talk to their children about the security checkpoints, where they may have to temporarily part with stuffed animals or blankets, Clark said.

Passengers also need to make sure all of their bags have identification tags, she said.

To save time in longer security lines, Clark said the TSA encourages fliers to put anything metal, like cell phones, jewelry and keys in carry-on bags.

In addition to long lines at the airport, travelers should also prepare for congestion on the highways, Laskoski said.

Because most people travel regionally to be with family, Laskoski said AAA estimates that 1.5 million people will travel by car in Georgia.

"We certainly want people to be patient and plan ahead," he said. "Give yourself plenty of time and also make sure the car's in good running condition."

Laskoski said that, in cold weather, checking the tire pressure in all tires, including the spare, is essential.

"I never inflated my spare tire properly," he said. "When I had a flat tire a couple weeks ago, it was useless to me."

Laskoski also suggests that families taking children on long trips bring enough snacks, drinks, and toys or books to keep their children occupied.

Gas prices in the state are remaining low compared to other states at $1.33 per gallon, according to AAA. Prices have been dropping since September, but Laskoski said people would drive to see family regardless of what it costs to drive there.

Walker said that, regardless of the economy and the financial costs of traveling, spending the holidays with family is a tradition he does not break.

"It just wouldn't be the same without family," he said.