It could be that as the population ages, more older residents are traveling to visit their own grown children, she said. "It could also indicate that parents are taking a much-needed getaway without the kids for the New Year's holiday."

Another difference is the way travelers ranked their reasons for holiday trips. Visiting friends and family traditionally has topped the list in Maryland, but this year, the top two reasons were dining and shopping, according to surveys. Visiting loved ones for the holidays came in third.

Many travelers passing through BWI during the holiday season will be members of the military — like Air Force Maj. Allen Spillers, who arrived Tuesday after spending three days in Baltimore and Washington with his wife, Jayda, and son, A.J., 16.

Spillers, a 48-year-old reservist from Louisiana, was deploying for six to nine months "to the desert;" he declined to give a more specific destination. He'd previously spent a month in training, missing Thanksgiving, and will now miss Christmas as well. But he was thankful for having some time in Baltimore.

"It's something we all have to do as military members, but that doesn't make it easier," he said of his holiday deployment. "The family is left behind to deal with the day-to-day life. It's just tough on them. In many ways, they're the unsung heroes."

krector@baltsun.com

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BY THE NUMBERS

Travel estimates for period starting Saturday and ending Jan. 1, compared with 2011:

Maryland travelers: 1.9 million, up 1.2 percent

By automobile: more than 1.7 million, up 0.9 percent

By air: nearly 107,000, up 4.1 percent

By train, bus, other: about 77,500, up 3.9 percent

Maryland traveler's average distance: 765 miles, up 2.4 percent

National travelers: 93.3 million, up 1.6 percent

National average spending: $759, up 6 percent

National average lowest round-trip airfare rate: $203, down 3 percent

Average gas prices, per gallon, on Tuesday:

Maryland

Tuesday: $3.27

One year ago: $3.21

One week ago: $3.33

One month ago: $3.41

National

Tuesday: $3.24

One year ago: $3.23

One week ago: $3.38

One month ago: $3.42