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Holiday travelers making plans for the journey home
Claretta Shaffers grabs a quick meal Monday afternoon while waiting for the 5:20 bus to Atlanta at the Greyhound bus station on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Shaffers is on her way home to New Orleans.

At 5:10 p.m. Monday, Claretta Shaffers knew exactly where she wanted to be.

“Up in the air for sure,” said the New Orleans native.

Instead, the truck driver was shivering in front of the Greyhound bus station on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Gainesville, waiting on her bus back home.

“Flying is the way to go. Buses have too many delays, but I’m desperate to get home for the holidays. I haven’t been home in two months,” she said.

Shaffers isn’t the only holiday traveler. According to AAA officials, an estimated 87.7 million Americans are expected to travel during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

“The 87.7 million who are planning to travel represent 28 percent of the total U.S. population and the overall increase over last year is certainly a positive sign for the economy,” said Kevin Bakewell, senior vice president of the AAA Club South, which includes Georgia.

In Georgia alone, more than 3 million travelers are expected to travel by air or roads.

“Christmas time is our busiest time of the year, much busier than the average week,” said Bonnie Bastian, Greyhound spokesperson.

“One feature that we have is flexible capacity seating. What that means is that if we see more passengers in one particular area, we can add more buses very quickly.”

The weekend storm that blanketed many areas along the East Coast with piles of snow has grounded more than one traveller who planned to fly to their final destination.

“I wanted to fly,” said Antwan Watson, who is relocating to Rochester, N.Y., from Gainesville.

“His father was trying to get a flight up until the very last minute, but they are dealing with 23 inches of snow up there, so all the flights were being delayed,” said Bonita Williams, Watson’s stepmother.

“The bus was the only option.”

Whether you are traveling by plane, train, bus or automobile, most officials recommend that travelers get an early start to their trip to allow for any unexpected delays. California resident Brian Williams observed that rule of thumb during his recent plane trip.

“I got here on Friday,” said Williams, who is visiting family in Gainesville.

“The airport was pretty crowded, but it wasn’t that bad.”

Although airplanes and other modes of public transportation are popular, according to AAA, 88 percent of this year’s holiday travelers will be making their journeys by automobile. With that idea in mind, the Georgia Department of Transportation is planning to suspend “construction-related lane closures” on major state routes and all interstates from 5 a.m. Wednesday until 5 a.m. Monday.

“We anticipate heavy traffic throughout the metro Atlanta area beginning Wednesday around noon,” said Vance C. Smith Jr., department commissioner. “Mall and retail center traffic will be particularly congested. Additionally, many travelers will be returning home over the weekend.”

Lane closures will be suspended on portions of three Hall County thoroughfares, Clarks Bridge Road, U.S. 129 and Ga. 365, during the holiday period.