Today, celebrating the fourth includes cookouts, fireworks and travel. Lots of travel this year, as it turns out. IHS Global Insight, in conjunction with AAA predicts a record number of Americans will take to the road for this year's holiday. These travelers are encouraged by falling gasoline prices and by the fact that July 4 falls on a Wednesday. That means adding two vacation days, either Monday and Tuesday or Thursday and Friday, can turn the holiday into a five-day getaway. Better yet, taking these four vacation days makes the fourth a nine-day holiday.
Karen Christiana, regional manager for AAA Allied Group, sees this first hand. "We've had a tremendous amount of last-minute activity. People are coming in and saying, 'I need a Triptik, I'm leaving tomorrow,' or 'I'm going next week.' I think it's gas prices dipping under $4 a gallon," she says.
Christiana notes that in addition to New England destinations, people are traveling farther this year, with Virginia Beach and Myrtle Beach, Niagara Falls and water parks, such as Six Flags, proving to be popular with Connecticut residents. "People are also going to the national parks," mostly in the east and Canada, but also in the west, she adds.
Connecticut has many favorite destinations expected to draw a crowd this week, including Bushnell Park with it wonderful carousel, Gillette Castle State Park, Hammonasset Beach, Lake Compounce, Mystic Aquarium, Mystic Seaport and the Valley Railroad with its train rides and riverboat cruises. And, let's not forget the casinos in the southeastern part of the state.
No New England state is lacking in attractions. From museums to recreational facilities, all surrounded by incredible scenery that includes ocean beaches, lakes and mountains, New England packs a tremendous variety into a relatively compact region.
Here are some tips for planning a driving getaway that will work for Fourth of July celebrations and for any additional trips later this summer.
*Remember that vacations are meant to be relaxing. Choose a destination that's an easy drive and that leaves plenty of time for activities, including family rest and relaxation.
*Check the car before the trip. Make sure it's mechanically sound and that your family members and possessions will not overload the vehicle. The swing to smaller vehicles has meant many people now have a car or truck that might not be able to safely hold the entire family, luggage and recreational equipment. Check the gross vehicle weight rating in the owner's manual before you start packing and, if necessary, rent a larger vehicle for the trip.
*Expect to share the road with others. Leave more time to accommodate traffic congestion, which will be inevitable for the 4th and throughout the summer.
One final note: The IHS-AAA survey shows that while travel is up, projected spending is down. Median expenses for a family getaway for the July 4th holiday are expected to total $749, down $58 from 2011. Much of this economizing will come at the expense of entertainment and shopping.
Jim MacPherson is the host of "The Car Doctor" show airing Sundays at noon on WTIC-AM. Paula MacPherson is his wife and new-car review partner. Send comments, questions, suggestions in care of Special Publications, Hartford Courant, 285 Broad St., Hartford, CT 06115, or email email@example.com.
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