If you're one of 37.2 million Americans taking to the skies and highways next weekend, you'll find crowds similar to pre-9/11 levels for the first time since the attacks. An estimated 30.6 million people will travel by car more than 50 miles from home over the holiday weekend -- 2.9 percent more than last year. Another 4.6 million will fly -- a 4.4 percent increase. An estimated 600,000 will take Amtrak during the holiday week. Here's what you need to know.
* At Dulles and Reagan National airports, arrive on terminal grounds 21/2 hours before a domestic flight if you are traveling at peak times: Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and the Sunday and Monday after, advises airport spokeswoman Tara Hamilton. BWI is sticking with its usual advice: Be in the terminal 90 minutes before flight time.
* Parking at Reagan will be in short supply. Call 703-417-PARK before leaving home to see if spots are available. If not, your options are pretty limited: Metro, cab or friend. At Dulles, some lots are expected to fill. But if you allow extra time, Hamilton says you should be able to drive around and find something. Parking at BWI shouldn't be a problem, says spokesman Jonathan Dean. If you want to park close, prices in the hourly lot are $20 max daily until Jan. 15, down from $30.
* For updates on wait times, delays, security lines, parking and traffic at 25 airports, including all three in the D.C. area, go to www.travelocity.com. Spotters will report hourly from Wednesday through next Sunday at the travel agency site.
* For the latest nuances involving security, go to www.tsa.gov for new rules and tips. Not only will your trip be easier, but you'll be spared the hatred of everyone in line behind you.
* Peak travel times are Wednesday afternoon and evening, and again Sunday afternoon and evening. Leaving early or late could save much aggravation.
* Consider using E-ZPass, a device that lets you to pass through tollbooths without stopping. The Virginia Smart Tag is finally compatible with E-ZPass. Details: www.virginiadot.org/comtravel/smart-tag-default.asp or www.ezpassmd.com.
* Average gas prices nationwide: $1.97 regular, up 47 cents over last year, says AAA. Hotels: up 5.7 percent on average. Car rentals: down 2.7 percent.
* You must book in advance for nearly all trains in the Northeast corridor and along the California coast when traveling Tuesday through next Monday.
* Bring photo identification: The Transportation Security Administration this month began requiring random ID checks on trains.
* Travel light: Amtrak has begun to enforce its limit of two bags plus a personal item, like a purse or laptop.
Three young, well-dressed women approached CoGo on Paris's Champs-Elysees recently, asking for help "buying wallets." Smelling a scam, CoGo demurred, only to encounter another supplicant on the next block. Parisian pals later clued us in: Louis Vuitton rations the merchandise at its Champs-Elysees mother store, and desperate shoppers are begging others to front for them. CoGo chose not to get involved, although it seems like a harmless way to help those with more money than sense.
Tickets for the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, are on sale at www.cosport.com. CoSport is the official ticket sales agent for the Olympic committee . . . The VIP crowds at the Clinton Presidential Center and Park should be gone by tomorrow, and any adult visiting Little Rock can tour for $7. (Children ages 6 to 17 pay $3; active military and small kids are free.) Guided tours are available with two weeks' notice. Details: 501-370-8000, www.clintonpresidentialcenter.com.
BARGAIN OF THE WEEK
Jolly Good Deal
Buy an economy round-trip ticket on British Airways to Europe and get two nights' free lodging in London. Details: What's the Deal?, Page P3.
Reporting: Cindy Loose, Gayle Keck.
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