Holiday travels

Record-breaking number of travelers expected this holiday season

MARQUETTE — If you’re one of the record-breaking number of 112.5 million travelers who will be headed to the airport, hitting the road, or traveling by train during the holidays, many state, local and national agencies are offering travel trips and information this season.

Air Travel

Around 6.7 million people will travel by airplane this holiday season, which is the highest number in 15 years, according to AAA.

For those traveling through Sawyer International Airport this holiday season, airport staff wants the public to know that the airport has been preparing for the snow.

They have gained a multi-function snow broom/plow vehicle and are using de-icing chemicals to “better maintain airfield pavements to reduce flight delays or cancellation,” an airport press release states.

“The Marquette County commission and airport staff realize the importance of this airport and are making the appropriate changes and additions to ensure that our traveling community has an airport that’s reliable for their travel,” Sawyer International Airport Manager Duane DuRay said.

Airport staffers have also been working to spread the word about important airline travel tips.

One of the most important, DuRay said, is arriving at the airport two hours prior to flight departure, as airline systems shut down 30 minutes before the flight and are not able to check-in last-minute passengers.

DuRay said it’s important to protect your travel investment — not only airline tickets, but hotel and rental car reservations — by giving yourself plenty of time to pack, drive to the airport, park, get checked in and get through security.

“I would like to emphasize the need for people to come early — be prepared for everything and anything,” DuRay said. “Just because we’re a small airport doesn’t mean that we operate under any less scrutiny for security and boarding practices with the airlines. You could easily fall behind the wrong vehicle or have road conditions be not what you expected, and if you’re running a tight schedule, this could be the difference between you sitting on the plane or watching the plane.”

Just as important — if not more important than arriving early — is being kind, courteous and respectful to airport and airline staff, DuRay said.

“Remember, the airline staff, all those people are there working for you, realize they are your best advocates,” he said.

For those traveling with gifts, it’s best to leave them unwrapped or ship them ahead by mail, as it will make the security screening process easier for all parties, DuRay said.

“If you’re traveling with gifts, don’t wrap them, because there’s always the possibility that (the Transportation Security Administration) may need to inspect them,” DuRay said. “And the last thing you want to do is see that gift that you wrapped up for your Aunt Martha getting opened by TSA.”

Road Travel

Of the 112.5 million people projected to travel, 102.1 million are expected to do so by car during the holiday season, which is the largest number of anticipated travelers AAA has ever recorded.

With these record number of travelers hitting the road this year, many may be wondering what gas prices will look like this season.

As of Friday, the national average for gas prices was $2.34, down from $2.43 at this time last year, according to AAA’s fuel gauge report. Michigan was below the national average at $2.17 Friday, down from 2017’s price of $2.60, according to AAA.

Furthermore, the Michigan Department of Transportation has announced it will keep nearly all of the state’s 77 rest areas open this winter, aiming to provide safe, convenient stopping points for travelers.

“Many travelers look to our network of rest areas for a safe stopping point on their travels, which is why we keep as many open as possible year-round,” State Transportation Director Mark Van Port Fleet said in a news release.

Five rest areas are closed for a 20-week period annually. The seasonal closures are due to reduced use during winter months and safety concerns, according to MDOT.

The following five rest areas were closed recently and will reopen April 24: the St. Ignace Rest Area on southbound I-75 in Mackinac County, the Ludington Rest Area on northbound U.S. 31 in Mason County, the Topinabee Rest Area on northbound I-75 in Cheboygan County, the Hebron Rest Area on southbound I-75 in Cheboygan County and the Hart Rest Area on southbound U.S. 31 in Oceana County

Closed rest areas are locked and winterized, with exit and entrance ramps barricaded. Designated rest areas will have “Closed Until Spring” signs posted and will have the mileage to the next open rest area listed.

Closed rest areas will be listed on MDOT’s website at www.michigan.gov/restareas.

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is cbrown@miningjournal.net.