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When it comes to travel, family trumps expense

The nation’s economy might be on the skids, but the millions of people traveling this holiday season are doing it because the cost is worth it.

A new national study shows that holiday travel is motivated strongly by the need to bond with family.

So despite the layoffs, foreclosures and stock losses, AAA predicts that roads and skies will remain nearly as busy as they were in 2007 when the economy was healthy. AAA forecasts that 41 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more, down 1.4 percent from last year.

The International Travel Association, based in New York, offers an explanation.

“Generally people perceive travel as a very important part of their lives and their families’ lives,” said Suzanne Cook, senior vice president for research for the travel association. “Most people value that time to be with family.”

Earlier this month, the ITA commissioned a Harris Interactive survey of 2,256 adults to ask them why they travel for the holidays.

The study found that 60 percent of those who will travel “strongly feel the time and money spent is a small price to pay to be with people they love,” according to the association.

What they look for is the chance to create memories; maintain traditions; reconnect and build relationships; and improve their sense of well being, the survey showed.

Those sentiments were strongest among women and older Americans. Creating memories was a motivating force for 79 percent of those 55 and older who plan to travel.

Also, 64 percent of parents with young children hosting other family members said they considered that the money their relatives spend traveling to be with them “is a part of their gift to me.”

The study also found an interesting trend. About half of Americans planning holiday trips will go on a destination vacation or a cruise. Those vacations increasingly involve other family members, Cook said.

Part of the thinking, she explained, is that no one in the family gets saddled with hosting holiday get-togethers that require extra planning, cooking and cleaning.

Buckle up at night

Law enforcement officers around Washington – including Spokane Valley and Spokane County – are in the middle of a campaign through Dec. 7 to catch people not wearing seat belts during nighttime hours.

The Washington Traffic Safety Commission says using seat belts can reduce the risk of injury and death by about 70 percent. The death rate for accidents at night is about four times higher than it is during the day.

Washington has one of the highest seat belt use rates in the country at 96.4 percent. That means about 230,000 drivers or passengers in the state are not wearing seat belts or are wearing them improperly. The law requires not only that the belt be worn, but that it be worn properly.

Signals set for new trail

In Idaho, Prairie Trail crossings at Kathleen Avenue and Atlas Road will soon be safer for bicyclists and pedestrians because new signals are being installed. Thorco Inc. was contracted by the city of Coeur d’Alene to install the signals as part of Kathleen Avenue road construction. The signals were scheduled for activation today.

Prairie Trail is a 4.25-mile, 16-foot-wide asphalt path linking Bluegrass, Ramsey and Riverstone parks, with connection to the Centennial Trail and running adjacent to the Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center.

For more information about the Prairie Trail, contact Charlie Miller of the North Idaho Centennial Trail Foundation, (208) 292-1634.

Plan ahead for traffic

The city of Spokane is expecting lines of shoppers in cars at two shopping malls this holiday season. Because of that, the city plans to have flaggers on duty during busy shopping times beginning on Friday at River Park Square and on Nov. 28 at NorthTown mall.

Mike Prager can be reached at (509) 459-5454 or by e-mail at