Local News

Tuesday, Aug 30 2011 08:37 PM

Three-day weekend: Your guide to making the most of it

BY Jill Cowan Californian staff writer jcowan@bakersfield.com

Whether you're getting out of town or sticking around for the Labor Day weekend, here's what you need to know.

Money matters

The economy appears to have hit would-be vacationers hard, with the percentage of Southern Californians traveling expected to decrease from last year by 2.6 this Labor Day weekend, an Automobile Club of Southern California's Bakersfield branch news release said.

Car travel, however, is expected to increase -- to 1.89 million Southern Californians hitting the road this year, up from last year's 1.88 million, the release said.

According to Chere Smith, Bakersfield branch supervisor, drivable destinations such as the Central Coast and Las Vegas are always popular with Bakersfield residents.

She added that while people are more "cautious" about spending money, "people are still traveling."

"They're booking trips a little further in advance," Smith said, which allows families to balance the books well before they head out for the weekend.

Bargain hunting

But for those who haven't booked ahead? Smith said her best advice is to vacation when other people don't.

"If people are looking for a bargain, travel to that destination in the off-season," she said.

Comparative travel websites such as Expedia and Travelocity offer featured deals and allow users to search based on criteria including lowest price or desired destination.

For those more suited to the great outdoors, the website <a href="http://Camp-California.com">Camp-California.com</a> offers similar search functions to more general travel sites, but specifically for campsites and RV parks throughout the state.

Gas prices

Even car travel is likely to be pricey. Gas prices this weekend will be higher than any other Labor Day weekend, except 2008, the Auto Club reports.

Average prices in Southern California are approaching $4 per gallon.

So, what should you do?

Make sure tires are filled to the proper pressure, time trips to stay out of traffic congestion and park at restaurants, rather than hitting drive-throughs, where idling at windows wastes fuel, the Auto Club advises.

Drive sober, safe

Wherever you drive, don't drive impaired. Officials from both the California Highway Patrol and the Bakersfield Police Department hammered that point home.

They expect more traffic and are ramping up enforcement efforts.

"What we're planning is a maximum enforcement period," said CHP spokesman Officer Robert Rodriguez. He said "every available officer" will be out on roadways from 6 p.m. Friday until 11:59 p.m. Monday.

BPD spokeswoman Sgt. Mary DeGeare said the department will take part in a nationwide effort to curb impaired driving called "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over," through the Avoid program. It will involve saturation patrols.

Rodriguez added that CHP will also be on high alert for vehicle breakdowns.

Drivers should check vehicles regularly, bring water and have a plan in place in case of a breakdown, "especially in the hot weather," he said.

Pleasant weather

National Weather Service Meteorologist Jim Dudley said it "looks like a very typical Labor Day weekend" all over the state.

That means Central Valley highs in the high 90s and lows in the low 70s.

At beaches up and down the coast, travelers will likely encounter fog in the mornings, which will burn off by afternoon.

Along the coast, high temperatures should be in the 60s and 70s and lows are expected in the upper 50s and lower 60s.

Dudley's forecast for travelers?

"There won't be any weather problems," he said, "that's for sure."

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