vacation watch

Forecast: Crowdy

A strong summer travel forecast means travelers will have to plan ahead to avoid lines and jams.

AAA and the Travel Industry Association of America predict a 3.2 percent increase in summer leisure travel compared with 2003, including a record 36.9 million Americans expected to take a trip more than 50 miles from home over Memorial Day weekend.

Road trips will account for 86 percent of all domestic travel this summer. Still, air travel is expected to increase more than 5 percent. A few tips:

* Fliers should either allow extra time or avoid flying at an airport's busiest times. The busiest times at BWI are Mondays, 6 to 8 a.m., and Thursdays and Fridays, 4 to 7 p.m. Reagan National and Dulles are most crowded weekdays from 6 to 8 a.m. and 3 to 5 p.m. Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays are the worst of the worst during those times.

* National has been running out of parking spaces, but you can call ahead to check availability: 703-417-PARK.

* Avoid toll booth lines by ordering an E-ZPass for travel north, west and east of D.C. (www.ezpass.com). For travel through Virginia, you'll need a Smart Tag (www.smart-tag.com).

* Find out about road construction, detours and other traffic problems at www.highwayconditions.com and at various E-ZPass sites (find links at www.paturnpike.com/ezpass). AAA members can get trip routing with construction info at www.aaa.com; click on TripTik.

* Grab a good airfare the minute you see it. Those waiting for last-minute deals may get shut out.

upright and locked

Squall Delays Takeoff

CoGo was belted for takeoff recently when the Southwest plane taxied back to the gate to escort a family of four off the plane. Their offense? Failure to control a squalling tot.

"He's just so tired," the mother told a flight attendant between futile efforts to soothe the child, about 2. The senior attendant on the Albuquerque-to-BWI flight said the eviction came because the parents didn't keep the child belted before takeoff, making the airline liable for a $1,100 federal fine. Southwest spokesman Brandy King said it was because the child's screams prevented passengers from hearing the crew's safety announcements.

Bethesda child psychiatrist Stanley Greenspan, asked for comment later, said the best cure for screaming is rhythmic rocking or back-rubbing. Firmness may not work for a preschooler in the midst of a tantrum, because "any attempt to get into a power struggle at that point only increases the storm."

The family, King said, was rerouted through St. Louis, delaying that takeoff by 10 minutes. If Southwest hadn't been able to reroute them, King said, the family could have expected, at the least, a "distress rate" on a hotel; in some cases, she said, the airline picks up the tab.

TRAVEL TICKER

Independence Air, the new discount carrier based at Dulles, began selling tickets last week.The first flights start June 16, to Chicago; Newark; Boston; Raleigh/Durham, N.C.; and Atlanta. By summer's end, the airline will have 600 flights a day to 35 U.S. destinations. All fares are one way, no Saturday-night stays are required, and you get $25 off your first round-trip flight. (Round-trip fares to the cheapest cities start at $78 without the discount.) Details: 800-FLY- FLYI, www.flyi.com . . . Song, Delta's discount airline, will give 5,000 free round-trip tickets to passengers caught doing random acts of kindness. Flight attendants on June flights will each be given four tickets to award passengers who, for example, help a fellow traveler stow a bag . . . Hertz is offering free use of a car seat to AAA members for the rest of 2004 . . . Driving trips in California are detailed in a free guide from the California Travel and Tourism Commission, 877-TOP- DRIVE, www.bestofcaliforniadrives.com.

BARGAIN OF THE WEEK

Asian Flew

Do an 11-night tour of Asia starting at $1,899 per person double. Details: What's the Deal?, Page P3.

Reporting: Cindy Loose, Ben Abramson, Susan Morse.

Help feed CoGo. Send travel news to: cogo@washpost.com. By fax: 202-912-3609. By mail: CoGo, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.