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Travel on rebound

June 02, 2010|By Christopher Cadelago

DOWNTOWN — Thousands of residents renewed travel regimens this Memorial Day weekend, pouring onto highways and into airports as the nation officially ushered in the summer travel season.

Be it falling gas prices, enticing hotel and car rental rates or a slight uptick in consumer confidence, the Southland was expected to see nearly an 8% increase in the number of residents traveling over the holiday weekend, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.

About 2.1 million people, representing roughly 85% of Southland travelers, were projected to reach their destinations by car, an increase of 8.3% over last year, according to the auto club.

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Memorial Day travel in the past few years has suffered locally and nationally, with double-digit unemployment and the continued fallout of the economic recession giving life to the term "staycation."

Gail Bukowski and Ryan Dietrich, of New Hampshire, spent the last few holiday weekends traveling in state. Both government workers, they took day trips and kept it simple, as Dietrich put it.

"We didn't want to spend as much on traveling," he said. "After a couple years of that, it's nice to get away."

The pair this weekend visited Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge, strolling through the gift shop before making their way into the summer heat.

"It's beautiful," said Bukowski, who is staying with friends in Burbank. "Definitely a change of pace."

The number of Americans traveling over the holiday weekend was projected to jump more than 5% from 2009, with about 32.1 million taking to their cars or airplanes. In California, nearly 4 million people were estimated to make Memorial Day getaways, rising 7.8% from last year. While 3.3 million were to travel by car, almost 400,000 would fly — a 5% percent jump.

Helen Maldonado and Nadine Cribbins, both from Greater Sacramento, hoped to catch a deciding seventh game between the Phoenix Suns and their beloved Los Angeles Lakers. But when the Lakers reached the NBA Finals by defeating the Suns in six games, the pair said their backup plan didn't sound too shabby, either.

"We're going shopping, Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills" Cribbins said. "We said all along that if they won in Game 6 we were just going to have fun."

The weekend was a sports getaway of sorts for Maldonado, who was celebrating a birthday.

The previous night they traveled to San Francisco's AT&T Park to watch the Giants defeat the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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