Colorado travelers head home for holidays despite recession
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
DENVER ” Holiday travelers held tight to their Thanksgiving plans, dragging suitcases and dog crates through Denver International Airport Wednesday on what was expected to be the airport’s busiest day this week.
Those who arrived early were rewarded with short lines and brief waits.
Airport officials expect about 20,000 fewer travelers this week than last year because of the worsening economy, but those making the trek to see family for the holidays said it was important as ever.
“We weren’t too concerned about (the economy),” said Richard Mohl, 62, of Colorado Springs, who was heading to Washington with his wife and two grown children. “We knew we had to do it. It’s kind of important.”
Some travelers brought their pets despite hefty fees to make them a part of the family celebration. Diane Polutchko, of Denver, said she paid $250 each way to bring her 8-year-old yellow Labrador to her family’s reunion in Potomac, Md.
“Yeah, it’s expensive,” said Polutchko, 45, as her 1-year-old son Mitchell ate pieces of ham on a stroller in front of her. “My son has a seat, my husband has a seat, my dog has a seat. Yeah, it makes you think twice, but family is more important than money.”
Marvin and Kathy Boyd had money to buy air tickets, but a last-minute delay proved costly. The couple, en route from Denver to Augusta, Ga., missed getting their bags checked in by two minutes at the Denver airport and had to book another flight.
They were waiting for Kathy Boyd’s mother to deposit money in her bank account to pay for the switch.
“We have to pay the money to change and we don’t have the money,” said Kathy Boyd, a 54-year-old a real-estate investor.
“It makes you want to drive,” she added.
Holiday travel across 11 Western states is expected to decline by 2.3 percent from last year, said Wave Dreher of AAA Colorado. That includes a 2.9 percent drop in auto travel and a 5.5 percent drop in air travel.
Cheaper gas prices help, but people are still weighed down by economic uncertainty, she said.
“You get pulled between your heartstrings and your purse strings,” she said. “More so than any other holiday, travelers tell us they want to be with their family.”
AAA’s Western region includes Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. The figures are based on people who say they plan on traveling more than 50 miles.
Lindsey Gutterman said her husband and three children were flying from Denver to Chicago for their annual get-together with high school friends.
“We bought the tickets this summer before it got really bad,” said Gutterman, 37, a documentary filmmaker. “This is our favorite trip. If there’s a way to get there we’ll get there.”
Denver airport spokesman Chuck Cannon said Wednesday was expected to be the busiest day of the week with about 146,000 travelers. That’s a slight increase from the same day last year, when more than 142,000 passengers went through DIA.
Cannon said the relatively quiet morning could have been deceiving.
“The place is big. It hides a lot of people,” he said.
The weather wasn’t a problem in Denver, with partly sunny skies and the temperature reaching above 60.
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A vehicle skidded off Frying Pan Road and into Ruedi Reservoir Monday morning. The car occupants were unharmed but the car had to be fished out, according to the Colorado State Patrol.