Gas prices no deterrent to these summer vacationers

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Memorial Day travel, said the AAA, was almost 2 percent higher than last year when it came to motorists who drove at least 50 miles for festivities.

That was music to the ears of travel agents because the holiday weekend is the traditional kickoff of summer travel, said Tracy Edwards, director of travel sales for AAA East Central in East Liberty.

“'It was a good start to the vacation season, he said. “It  tells me no one has concerns about gas prices,’’ which bounced between $3.60 and $3.90 a gallon for unleaded.

Gas prices don’t seem to be a concern for a number of East suburban residents.

Jill and Glenn Briercheck will drive to Florida and Georgia in July or August to visit relatives for two weeks and to soak up sun and fun at the local beaches.

Since the Greensburg couple will stay with family there, the cost of the vacation will be minimal and gas prices do not create a big issue, Mrs. Briercheck said.

Mr. Edwards said popular summer driving destinations include Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Nags Head, N.C.; Niagara Falls, in New York and Canada; Gettysburg in Adams County; and Washington, D.C.

Lisa Hays said she will probably stay at home because she is hosting vacationing family members from North Carolina and Washington State at her Cook Township home this summer.  But she said she will take day trips with her guests to Idlewild Park and Linn Run State Park in Ligonier, as well as historical sites in the region.

Debbie and Dave Delisi of Hempfield recently flew to San Francisco, where they rented a car to visit the state's Yosemite National Park, Big Sur and the Napa Valley.

Mr. Delisi said he frequently encountered gas prices hovering around $4.60. ”It is upsetting at the pump, but we still [travel] ,'' he said.

For those who consider heeding Horace Greeley's advice of ''Go West, young man,'' Las Vegas

is an affordably priced destination with a $384 air/hotel package, said Sheila Greene, owner of Angels With Wings Travel Agency in Monroeville. 

The Caribbean is popular for land stays, as well as sea cruises with San Juan, Cancun and the Bahamas the prime spots, Ms. Greene said.

A seven-day Caribbean cruise generally priced around $1,300 a person includes everything —

even Pittsburgh-Florida airfare — but not alcohol.

Roundtrip flights to the Bahamas can be had for $400 to $600, with hotels there $125 per night.

''Everybody wants a full buck for their money,'' Ms. Greene said of travel deals.

Nancy and Chuck Anderson (he is a Westmoreland County commissioner) will fly to the United Kingdom for 10 days in August with a WQED tour group.

Besides visiting Scotland and Wales for the first time, Mrs. Anderson is looking forward to touring filming locations of the  British television series, “Downton Abbey.”

''I love the show,'' the Hempfield woman said.

The popularity of European river cruising, such as on the Rhine and Danube, has been on the rise the past few years, Mr. Edwards said.

''You are getting to see parts of Europe that you couldn't otherwise see,’’ he noted. “It is not far from land, so you can see something at all times,'' he said of stops at cities and small towns along the way.

River cruises, as a rule, are more expensive than sea cruises, and attract older travelers.

For vacations and family functions this year, Sally Loughran flew to Paris; rode the auto-train to Florida; and drove to Wellesley, Mass.

The Greensburg woman said she believes the auto-train offers the best of all worlds: speed, and mobility once you arrive at your destination.

''You board at 4 p.m. in Virginia, and are in Sanford,Fla., at 9 a.m. the next day,’’ she said. ”And your car is with you.’’

Margaret Smykla, freelance writer:

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