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Seasoned road warriors Jill and Alan Hunsaker packed their truck, complete with snacks, the kids and some entertainment to keep them from getting restless: a portable DVD player, books and needlepoint. Then they hit the road for an 11-hour drive from Grantsville, Utah, to San Jose, where one daughter is competing in the taekwondo nationals this weekend.
The trip, which will last through the entire Fourth of July holiday weekend and beyond, puts them on well-traveled roads with lots of other folks. In fact, if your car is packed to take advantage of the long Independence Day weekend, you'll be among the nearly 35 million other Americans who are hitting the road, according to AAA Travel. That's the group's projection on how many will drive at least 50 miles from home over the next few days. Another 10 million will make their treks using other modes of transportation.
That's a small jump — 1.9 percent — from last year and a big leap — 14 percent — compared to the recent Memorial Day weekend.
Research from the American Automobile Association says the increase isn't because people have more money; they're just not shying away from taking credit cards for a spin.
"Steady improvement in the economy has spurred consumer confidence and spending," said AAA Chief Operating Officer Marshall L. Doney, in a written statement. "Optimistic Americans are more willing to take on debt this year, dusting off their credit cards to pay for a much-needed Independence Day getaway."
Most will travel for leisure, though some will combine events with vacation, as the Hunsakers are doing. They've folded a visit with Jill Hunsaker's sister into the trip, along with the tournament and a trip to the Bay Area and a state park.
Mom vs. Dad
For each of these road trips, somebody's going to be driving — and a survey of adult kids, ages 25 to 64, found that 63 percent believe Dad's the better driver. But they'd still rather travel with Mom because she's neater, chooses better music than Dad and wants to stop and sit down and eat.
On the other hand — and this builds the case against Mom — she's a worse back seat driver, asks for directions, has "deep conversations" it's hard to escape from in a car and may drive too slowly.
Then again, Dad is more likely to have road rage, according to the survey.
The survey was commissioned by Visiting Angels, which provides in-home, private care to the elderly, which is why they asked adults, not little kids, about driver preference. Company vice president Richard Bitner told the Deseret News it was a light-hearted attempt to talk about older drivers, since one of the biggest concerns that families with senior citizens face is when should an older adult quit driving.
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