On the road again

Southern California resident Billy Ernst and his wife Stefani spent the Fourth of July weekend in the San Francisco area.

After a weekend of wine tasting and playing tourist with family members, they said they were sad to see the weekend end while waiting for their bags Monday afternoon.

"I wish it was a little longer," Billy Ernst said.

The Ernsts were two of nearly 35 million travelers expected to trek at least 50 miles from home for the holiday weekend, which included Monday's observed holiday, according to a travel forecast issued last week by AAA.

The figures were a 17% jump from the same time last year, when about 30 million Americans took a trip for the Fourth of July.

AAA officials said the forecast was good news for the travel industry, which has seen dramatic drops in travel during the protracted recession.

"While financial markets continue to have volatility related to the European debt crisis, the landscape of the U.S. economy is in a much different place than it was one year ago," Glen MacDonell, director of AAA Travel Services, said in a statement. "It is encouraging to see such growth this summer as Americans take to the road to visit family, friends and great vacation destinations."

While the majority of travelers were expected to drive to their destination, the airline industry was also expecting an 8.2% increase in air travel, according to AAA. The jump in plane bookings came despite air fares averaging about 13% higher than the same time last year.

Bob Hope Airport was also forecasting a jump in travel of about 4% based on advanced booking information, said Lucy Burghdorf, manager of community relations at the airport.

For the Ernsts, the ease of flying in and out of Bob Hope Airport as opposed to the bigger Los Angeles International Airport helped keep their long weekend travel low-stress.

"If we don't have to go to LAX, we don't," Stefani Ernst said.

Still, many people chose to stay close to home for the holiday.

While Valencia resident Willy Leopold's sister traveled to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, for the weekend, Leopold said he rarely travels on holiday weekends.

"It's too much of a hassle," he said while waiting to pick her up Monday afternoon at Bob Hope Airport. "It's easier to stay home and relax."

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