'Tis the season for a holiday trip

Posted December 22, 2015 5:59 p.m. EST
Updated December 22, 2015 9:29 p.m. EST

— AAA has predicted a record 100 million people will be traveling over the Christmas holiday, including thousands flying through Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

RDU officials said an estimated 30,000 travelers would pass through the airport daily on Tuesday, Wednesday, Sunday and next Monday – 30 to 40 percent more than a typical day. They advised flyers to arrive two hours before their flights to provide enough time to find parking and make it through check-in and security lines.

Francesca Aaron and her husband made a point of getting to the airport early Tuesday, and rainy weather, traffic and long lines haven't dampened their Christmas spirit as they head to Chicago.

"(We're going) to see our only daughter and our granddaughter, who just turned 3, and our daughter's expecting a baby a month from today," Aaron said. "We're excited. Santa Claus is definitely on the way."

Although many people might want to avoid RDU because of the holiday crowds, a number of volunteers braved the rush to help travelers.

"It's kind of overwhelming, especially if they've never been here before," said Joanie Richards as she helped people navigate Terminal 2, from pointing them to the right check-in area to clueing them in on where to find a restroom or buy a sandwich.

Richards and fellow volunteer Jean Spargur said the travelers they've seen have been in a pretty good mood.

"I think people are excited at Christmas time. They're looking forward to their journeys," Spargur said.

Another group of volunteers was welcoming some special travelers coming in – art students from Orange High School brought handmade cards to give to arriving service members.

"I want to say happy holidays and we all care for you and appreciate you for everything. Have a wonderful Christmas and stay strong, and remember, you are always cared for and loved," ninth-grader Brittany Moore said.

Art teacher RaeAnn Daughtry, along with fellow teacher Micki Saad, said her students undertook the project as a way to thank military members for their service. Even though their school is already on holiday break – and there are a lot of other places students could be – about a dozen went to RDU to hand out their cards personally.

"Students, if you give them an opportunity to give back, that's all they want to do. They want to make people happy, and the fact that they created these things, they're so proud to give it to someone, and a lot of them have family in the military, so it means a lot to them as well," Daughtry said.