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Traffic on I-395 looking south as the sun sets on Thanksgiving Eve in 2019 (Staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Thanksgiving week is here and, based on past polls, that means about 45% of you are traveling.

Our 2015 morning poll on the topic found that most local Thanksgiving travelers — about 75% — will do so by car, while 20% will travel by plane.

With that in mind, we have three key tips for Thanksgiving road and air travelers.

1. If driving, leave earlier or later in the day

Expect plenty of traffic if you’re planning to drive to your destination on Wednesday, but you can avoid some of it by leaving earlier in the morning or later at night. The same applies for those driving back on Saturday or Sunday.

“Based on the traffic data, periods of heavy congestion are most likely to occur from mid-morning to evening on Wednesday, Nov. 23, afternoon on Saturday, Nov. 26, and all day on Sunday, Nov. 27,” said a VDOT press release last week.

Based on a VDOT map of past travel trends, there is likely to be a fair amount of traffic in and out of Northern Virginia on Tuesday as well, particularly around the evening rush hour.

VDOT will be suspending most work zones and lane closures from Nov. 23-28, but that will only marginally ease the traffic onslaught.

2. Reserve your airport parking now

If you’re flying out of Reagan National Airport and planning to drive there, parking is currently widely available in all three lots.

However, you’re unlikely to find much — if any — parking by the time Wednesday rolls around. Fortunately, as of publication, online reservations were still available for Terminal 2 and economy parking.

DCA parking availability as of Nov. 21, 2022

Meanwhile, if you’re flying out of Dulles International Airport, don’t forget that the new Silver Line extension to Dulles is now open.

3. Drive carefully (and if you don’t, State Police might stop you)

With so many people on the roads, sometimes after having a few drinks, Thanksgiving weekend is sadly a time of many serious crashes nationwide.

That’s why authorities regularly encourage drivers to be extra careful this time of year.

Virginia State Police announced this morning that it would be conducting extra patrols and enforcement for Thanksgiving. More from a press release, below.

For many Virginians, gathering with family and friends is the true meaning for Thanksgiving. Some will even travel long distances to share in these wonderful family moments. Just as important as it is to make sure those pies and casseroles make it to the dinner table safely, motorists need to make their own safety a priority, as well. Virginia State Police is reminding all drivers and passengers of all ages to buckle up this holiday weekend. Preliminary data show that 54% of those who have died in traffic crashes this year were not wearing a seatbelt or safety restraint.*

“The fact that more than half of those who have lost their lives in traffic crashes this year were not wearing a seatbelt is a tragic and inexcusable reality for Virginia,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “Your family wants you to arrive safely and clicking a seatbelt can help that happen. Virginia State Police and your loved ones want you to arrive at your destination safely – ditch distractions, comply with posted speed limits, never drive buzzed or drunk, and, again, always buckle up.”

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Traffic on I-395 looking south as the sun sets (Staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The Memorial Day holiday weekend is almost here and with it comes the kickoff to the unofficial summer travel season.

AAA expects 39.2 million people will travel 50 miles or more this weekend, an increase of 8.3% over 2021. Most — nearly 35 million — will travel by car. Another 3 million will travel by air, a 25% increase from last year, the automobile association predicts.

Overall, that’s still down from the pre-pandemic 2019 figures of 42.8 million overall travelers, including 3.22 million air travelers.

When we asked ARLnow readers about their upcoming travel plans last month, 27% said they had no plans at the time to spend 2+ nights away from home this summer, while 60% said they were planning between one and three trips.

Of course, this Memorial Day weekend comes amid yet another Covid wave that, while less deadly than past waves, still means plenty of disruption to plans and apprehension about visiting vulnerable loved ones. Then there are those sky-high gas prices — a national average of $4.60 per gallon, per AAA.

With all that in mind, today we’re asking readers: are you planning to travel this weekend? And we’ll be comparing the results to a similar poll in 2013 when just shy of 35% said yes (at the time, the federal government sequester was blamed for dampening D.C. area residents’ enthusiasm for holiday travel).

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As commuters left to wet roadways this morning, predictions about when rain would switch to snow, and how much snow would fall, shifted.

Arlington is still under a Winter Weather Advisory until 1 p.m. today but Capital Weather Gang reports that the changeover to snow may be delayed in the D.C. area, lowering snow accumulation predictions.

The National Weather Service says snow accumulations up to 1 inch would mostly be on grassy areas. Arlington Public Schools closed today, using the school system’s last traditional snow day, in response to the initial weather advisory that forecast up to 2 inches of snow following rain during the morning commute.

Arlington County Department of Environmental Services tweeted that crews would focus on preventing ice buildup.

“With expectations dwindling for any significant snow today, County crews will focus on preventing ice buildup as temperatures drop below freezing this p.m. and stay there into Sunday. Plan for a slow Friday,” DES posted.

The National Weather Service said to plan on hazardous road conditions, slow down and use caution while driving.

“When venturing outside, watch your first few steps taken on steps, sidewalks, and driveways, which could be icy and slippery, increasing your risk of a fall and injury,” the NWS advisory reads.

Wires were also down in the Lyon Park area, closing a section of Washington Blvd. between 2nd Road N. and 4th Street N., Arlington County Police said.

See the latest update to the advisory below.

URGENT – WINTER WEATHER MESSAGE
National Weather Service Baltimore MD/Washington DC
732 AM EST Thu Jan 20 2022

DCZ001-MDZ011-013-014-016-504-506-508-VAZ052>056-502-201800-
/O.CON.KLWX.WW.Y.0008.000000T0000Z-220120T1800Z/
District of Columbia-Southern Baltimore-Prince Georges-
Anne Arundel-Charles-Central and Southeast Montgomery-
Central and Southeast Howard-Southeast Harford-
Prince William/Manassas/Manassas Park-Fairfax-
Arlington/Falls Church/Alexandria-Stafford-Spotsylvania-
Southern Fauquier-
732 AM EST Thu Jan 20 2022

…WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 1 PM EST THIS
AFTERNOON…

* WHAT…Rain briefly changing to snow by the end of the morning
commute, with snow accumulations of up to one inch mainly on
grassy surfaces.

* WHERE…The Interstate 95 corridor from northeastern Maryland
through the Fredericksburg area, including the DC and Baltimore
metros.

* WHEN…Until 1 PM EST this afternoon.

* IMPACTS…Plan on slippery road conditions. The hazardous
conditions will impact the morning commute.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…

Slow down and use caution while traveling.

When venturing outside, watch your first few steps taken on
steps, sidewalks, and driveways, which could be icy and slippery,
increasing your risk of a fall and injury.

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Folks wanting a weekend trip to Virginia Beach can now catch a luxury motor coach — with leather seats and hot towels — that has regular departures from Fashion Centre at Pentagon City.

Rides with the bus company, ROX, started July 1, 2020, and ended 90 days later as coronavirus cases rose in the fall. Service between Arlington and Virginia Beach started back up in July, and the company is set to bring a Charlottesville-Virginia Beach route online in September.

Today, the Virginia Beach-based company has three motor coaches that seat up to 23 passengers (a normal bus has 56 seats). Buses leave Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Each ROX bus has WiFi, individual charging outlets and chargers available on-demand. Riders can choose from a digital library of books, movies and TV shows, and are served a complimentary meal, snacks and soft drinks, with the option to buy alcohol.

“It’s better than any first class flight you’ve been on,” said ROX founder Jeff McWaters, a businessman and former Virginia state senator, who represented part of Virginia Beach.

McWaters, who founded the health insurance company Amerigroup, got the idea from his personal experience traveling for work between Virginia Beach and D.C.

If all the employees drove, “no one could work, it was dangerous, and we had issues,” he said, while flying was a hassle with frequent delays, and trains had poor WiFi and food.

With ROX, the former senator is looking to invigorate the commercial connection between the two hubs while taking advantage of a growing preference for remote work, with occasional trips to the office.

“We learned during the pandemic, you can work from home, you can work from the park, you can work with a glass of wine, but you can’t work on I-66, working on trains is spotty, and you can’t work on airplane,” he said. “You can work on the ROX.”

So far, most riders are using the bus for leisure, but McWaters predicts business travel will return.

ROX stops at Fashion Centre because it is well-connected and offers shopping and dining, he said. The mall, which offers luggage storage, alos has an Avis rental car outpost, and riders can catch the Metro or a car to get to other parts of Arlington, D.C. or the airport.

“It’s got everything,” he said.

While the bus service was shut down, the company earned income from private charters of a fourth bus. That coach features reclining seats, a kitchen, a sofa and eight televisions, including one outside for tailgating.

The bus has been to “some fun places,” and is set to embark on a 10-day hunting trip to Wyoming this fall, said Janice Tuckman, a sales representative for ROX.

“We picked up group at the The Greenbrier and drove them on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, where they visited distilleries and stayed at an Airbnb. They had a whoopin’ good time, and after four days, headed back to Greenbrier.”

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The Courtyard Arlington Rosslyn hotel (1533 Clarendon Blvd) is now under new management as Sonesta Select Arlington Rosslyn.

Although management under Marriott International, Inc. ended on Jan. 31, Boston-based Sonesta International Hotels has been preparing for the transition since last year.

While other hotels shut their doors in 2020, Sonesta started opening them. In fact, Sonesta acquired the Rosslyn hotel and 97 other Marriott-branded hotels in October because the hotelier had fallen behind on payments to property owner Service Properties Trust (SVC), the trust said.

“This is a momentous time for the company, underscoring the continued growth and amplifying the long-term success of Sonesta and its branded hotels,” according to Sonesta’s website.

Last fall, after it said it attempted and failed to collect $11 million in missed payments from the hotel chain, SVC ended its 26-year relationship with Marriott. The international hotel chain lost 122 hotels, which together had only generated $2.6 million in eight months.

Sonesta, which is 34% owned by SVC, took on the management of 98 of the 122 hotels. The remaining 24 hotels were sold for more than $150 million.

“We believe that the rebranding of these hotels with Sonesta will benefit SVC as an owner of Sonesta, create greater flexibility in managing these hotels through these challenging market conditions and have a positive impact on this portfolio’s performance in the future,” said SVC President and CEO John Murray in a statement last fall.

Sonesta has experienced 350% growth in less than six months, and will soon have 300 operating properties across seven brands operating in North and South America, Egypt and St. Maarten, according to a press release.

The growth comes amid early signs of recovery in the hard-hit hotel industry. Still, travel is not projected to bounce back fully until 2024, according to some projections.

Photo courtesy Sonesta

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Yesterday, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that Americans should avoid travelling during the holiday season, but get tested if they do travel.

“Cases are rising. Hospitalizations are increasing, Deaths are increasing. We need to try to bend the curve, stop this exponential increase,” said the CDC’s incident manager for the COVID-19 pandemic, as quoted by USA Today.

The federal agency has additional guidance for family holiday gatherings on its website.

Despite the CDC’s advice, many will still travel, gather and celebrate. Today we’re wondering how many Arlingtonians are planning to head out of town for Hanukkah, Christmas or the new year.

Are you planning to travel this holiday season?

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Morning Notes

Prosecutor Files Petition Against Judges — “A northern Virginia prosecutor who says her county’s judges are infringing on her discretion to dismiss charges and enter plea bargains is asking the state Supreme Court to intervene on her behalf. Arlington County Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti filed a petition Friday asking the court for a relief from a policy imposed by the county’s four Circuit Court judges.” [Associated Press]

New BBQ Pop-Up Coming to Pentagon City — “In their spare time [chefs Kevin Tien and Scott Chung] dreamed up Wild Tiger BBQ, which launches Thursday, August 20 next to Bun’d Up at Pentagon Row in Arlington. The pop-up will run Thursday through Saturday for the first few weeks.” [Washingtonian]

‘Bumper Crop of Mosquitos’ — “With the floods of summer come the pests of summer — bloodsucking mosquitoes. It takes several days to a couple of weeks for mosquitoes to hatch, molt and fly out of floodwater, but the swarms eventually arrive, in greater numbers than before the flood. After the recent flooding from thunderstorms and Tropical Storm Isaias in the Washington region, a bumper crop of mosquitoes has emerged.” [Washington Post]

Retired Colonel Helps With COVID Response — “When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early March, retired U.S. Air Force Colonel David Ashley quickly found his planned spring and summer mountain climbing trips canceled. He spent about a week doing projects around his Arlington home, but after 27 years in the military, he realized he need something else, something with more purpose.” [Arlington County]

Cab Exec’s Offensive Post Makes Headlines — “An elected town council member in Strasburg, Va., who also is chairman of the 6th Congressional District’s Republican Committee admitted this week that he posted, then removed, a sexually offensive meme targeted at Sen. Kamala D. Harris… [John] Massoud, who is vice president of Arlington’s Blue Top taxi service and was an unsuccessful candidate against ex-Del. Bob Brink for a House of Delegates seat from Arlington in 1997 and 1999, moved to the Shenandoah Valley about 10 years ago.” [Washington Post]

Analysis of Rents Near Metro Stations — “The most expensive rents ($2,200 and up) are found in areas of Arlington and Washington, DC. Rent near the Ballston-MU station is in the mid-range among DC Metro stops. But while the median price increased near Court House, it decreased near Ballston-MU, according to the analysis. The median rent for a one-bedroom unit near Ballston-MU is $1,975, a 1.3 percent decrease from 2019.” [Patch]

Clement Rips Dems for Redistricting Stance — “An independent candidate for Arlington County Board has criticized the Arlington County Democratic Committee for its opposition to a nonpartisan-redistricting constitutional amendment on the state ballot in November. Audrey Clement, who is challenging incumbent Democrat Libby Garvey for County Board, said the Democrats’ vote seems disingenuous for a party that claims to be about good government.” [InsideNova]

Arlington Makes Top Travel Destination List — “For all the talk of a move to small, less densely populated destinations, Hotwire also ranked much bigger cities. Its ‘midsize must see’ picks were St. Louis; Tampa, Florida; Atlanta; Arlington, Virginia; Tucson, Arizona; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Virginia Beach, Virginia; Pittsburgh; Miami; and Cincinnati.” [CNBC]

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A three-day Fourth of July weekend is fast approaching.

This would usually be one of the busiest travel times of the year. Instead, airports have barely a quarter of the travellers as last year, and traffic maps are mostly a sea of green. The pandemic has affected nearly all aspects of normal life, including the willingness of people to leave one’s house and visit other places or people.

The anemic level of air travel is expected to continue, though driving may take up some of the slack: this summer is being dubbed the summer of the road trip.

How has coronavirus affected the Independence Day travel plans of Arlingtonians? Let’s find out.

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Travel can be a wonderful and life-changing experience. Many people in Arlington have come from elsewhere, and are interested in exploring the world and experiencing new things. An Arlington-based travel company is here to help people achieve those dreams.

Global Wanderer Travel is a full-service luxury travel company specializing in group tours to various domestic and international destinations. Each trip they offer is an opportunity for people to experience a new place and new experiences, as well as satisfy the travel bug.

The company aims to provide people (both newcomers and seasoned travelers) with a mix of fun experiences and immerse them in local culture at the same time. The company is expanding its offerings and would like to draw people’s attention and raise general awareness of the opportunities available.

Global Wanderer Travel’s goal is to provide a more meaningful travel experience. With upcoming destinations such as New York, London, and Paris on the horizon, the company offers a mix of destinations to satisfy any traveler’s desires. Each tour includes a small group size so everyone gets to know each other.

Rather than just visiting the main tourist attractions in a city, people are also given unique opportunities to immerse themselves in the local culture, whether through a food tour of local cuisine, exploration of a city’s downtown streets and neighborhoods, or history lessons from a native historian. Each traveler gets the fun and relaxation of a vacation, but ends up with a full appreciation and understanding of the destination as well.

Global Wanderer Travel is continuously expanding its tour offerings to new places. Interested travelers are encouraged to reach out with questions and to find out more.

New adventures and destinations await!

(Updated at 4:35 p.m.) Expect heavy traffic at the airports and on local highways as more than a million people depart the D.C. area for the Thanksgiving holiday.

According to Reagan National Airport, peak travel days include today (Tuesday) and tomorrow (Wednesday), plus Saturday and Sunday for those returning from their Thanksgiving vacation.

Travelers are advised to take Metro and use terminal garages due to ongoing construction for a new 14-gate concourse at DCA, titled “Project Journey,” that has reduced lane capacity on the Arrivals roadway in front of Terminal B/C. Meanwhile, big storms affecting large portions of the country may bring flight delays and cancellations.

On the roads, AAA Mid-Atlantic is predicting a “big exodus,” with the worst traffic expected tomorrow.

“As a result, holiday travelers exiting the area and those staying put for the holiday, will encounter heavier traffic congestion, as well as travel delays that are almost three times longer than the normal delays — if there is such a thing around here — during the afternoon rush hours on any given Wednesday.”

Another traffic tracking company agrees, saying 3-5 p.m. on Wednesday should bring the worst traffic on D.C. area highways and arterials.

As Thanksgiving is one of the worst times of the year for crashes, Virginia State Police will be participating in Operation C.A.R.E. — Crash Awareness and Reduction Effort — starting tomorrow and running until December 1. The program, will increase police visibility and traffic enforcement efforts throughout the five-day holiday period.

The Arlington County Police Department, meanwhile, has partnered with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for a high-visibility “Click It or Ticket” campaign, starting today and running until December 6.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority had the following tips for travelers, after the jump.

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Workers to Picket at DCA Today

Airline catering workers at Reagan National Airport are planning to picket and stage a sit-in today to protest “poverty wages [and] expensive healthcare.”

The workers, who work for companies contracted by the airlines, are paid as little as $12.15 an hour and many don’t receive company-provided healthcare, according to labor union UNITE HERE Local 23.

Around 5:30 p.m. today, on perhaps the busiest travel day of the year, workers are planning to engage in “informational picketing,” followed by a “nonviolent civil disobedience sit-in” at DCA’s American Airlines Terminal C.

This is the latest in a series of labor actions targeting airline contractors at National Airport over the past few years — including one recent rally with Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

More from UNITE HERE:

This protest is set to be the latest in a series of demonstrations by airline catering workers at U.S. airports. Though their work is essential to airline operations, wages are as low as $12.15 an hour. Only 32% of workers at LSG Sky Chefs at DCA had company healthcare in 2018, and only 10% covered any dependents. Meanwhile, American reported a 2018 annual profit of $1.9 billion. Workers hope that by bringing their message to the many passengers travelling before Thanksgiving, they will motivate American to resolve the labor dispute.

In addition to ongoing protest activity at DCA, previous large-scale demonstrations calling attention to American Airlines have already taken place this year in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and Dallas-Ft. Worth–where over 50 were arrested in a civil disobedience near American Airlines’ headquarters and largest hub airport. This past summer UNITE HERE airline catering workers at DCA voted overwhelmingly to strike when released by the National Mediation Board. Federal mediation of contract negotiations continues.

In D.C., where the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority passed a workers wage policy in 2017, the Board’s resolution stated that MWAA would review the policy no later than December 31, 2019. The last scheduled raise in the MWAA policy is for $12.75 on January 1, 2020, and then will rise with inflation. Meanwhile, the minimum wage in D.C. is already $14, rising to $15 on July 1, 2020, and then rising with inflation. Workers are pushing MWAA to raise the minimum wage for all airport workers to catch up to the rising minimum wage in D.C., and address the growing health care crisis at Reagan National and Dulles International Airports.

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