staff and news service reports
updated 9/3/2010 7:13:07 PM ET 2010-09-03T23:13:07

Hurricane Earl’s whipping winds are adding a wrinkle to an already busy three-day weekend where more than 34 million people are expected to travel at least 50 miles from home, even as the storm weakened as it headed toward New England.

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“We’re recommending that people prepare, plan early, call ahead to the airlines and look at alternate routes to get places,” AAA’s Nancy White said.

Continental Airlines canceled 60 departures out of Newark Liberty on Friday, but “they are all regional — Continental Express and Connection only,” airline spokesperson Andrew Ferraro told

Traveling this weekend? How do the roads and airports look?

Southwest Airlines said it canceled flights Friday at three East Coast airports — Islip, N.Y., Providence, R.I., and Boston's Logan Airport — as the hurricane approached. The airline expected to resume service at all three by Saturday morning.

Southwest expected to resume flights Friday afternoon in Norfolk, Va., where flights were canceled starting Thursday night.

Video: Last-minute Labor Day travel tips (on this page)

JetBlue on Thursday announced pre-cancellations on three flights — JFK-Bermuda, JFK-Nantucket and Boston-Bermuda.

“JetBlue is monitoring the storm, but [we] don’t expect further cancellations,” spokesperson Allison Croyle said.

Arriving flights at New York's LaGuardia airports were delayed about half an hour Friday because of weather, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

Nearly 1.4 million air travelers are expected to pass through JFK, Newark and La Guardia this weekend, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey predicted.

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Travelers moving through storm-affected areas are advised “to check status online prior to leaving for the airport,” Croyle said.

Continental, JetBlue and several other carriers are waiving change fees and fare differences for travelers who are forced to change their plans.

Amtrak suspended service between New York and Boston until Saturday morning after a tree fell across electrical lines in New London, Conn., at about 12:30 p.m. The rail carrier already had planned to stop service by 4:30 p.m. due to the storm.

On Massachusetts' Cape Cod, ferries to and from Nantucket were suspended at noon, leaving some vacationers stranded on the mainland. On the island, a steady line of pickup trucks towed boats to safe storage until the storm passed, assistant town manager Gregg Tivnan said.

Video: Will Earl leave your weekend plans awash? (on this page)

In Atlantic City, Bob Quinn of Rochester, N.Y., was planning to leave ahead of the storm Friday.

"We were going to be leaving Friday by noon, so we figured we would probably catch the good weather and get out of here just before the bad stuff came in," Quinn said.

One man drowned in rough surf in New Jersey on Tuesday and another was missing after going into the ocean Thursday night, state officials said.

Ellen McDonough of Boston and a friend were waiting in Hyannis on Friday morning for one of the last ferries to Nantucket. The two had long planned a Labor Day weekend getaway to the island.

"It's not a 3-foot snowstorm. I think us New Englanders are tough," McDonough said. "We've had this weekend planned, and no hurricane is going to stop us."

The National Weather Service was forecasting winds up to 65 mph on Nantucket, with gusts up to 85 mph. Earl packed winds that had reached 145 mph before losing strength.

In North Carolina, portions of Highway 12, the main artery through the Outer Banks, were closed because of tidal flooding. Officials said the road to and from Hatteras Island — home to seven villages — would stay closed through Friday.

The highway is critical should residents and tourists who obeyed evacuation orders try to return soon. Several counties had asked people to leave risky areas, including Ocracoke and Hatteras islands.

On Ocracoke, Highway 12 was open to 4-wheel-drive traffic early Friday, Hyde County spokeswoman Jamie Tunnell said. Officials hoped to open the road to all vehicles by the end of the day.

Farther north, Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri urged drivers to stay off Interstate 95, which was expected to flood Friday evening.

In Maine, two cruise ships, including the Explorer of the Seas with about 3,000 passengers, sought the safety of Portland Harbor to ride out the storm. Hundreds of smaller boats were pulled from the water up and down the coast.

About 10.3 percent more Americans are expected to travel by car this holiday weekend compared to last year, AAA said.

The group also estimated median spending for the Labor Day holiday at $697 per household this year, $50 more than last year.

“About 50 percent of that $50 increase is going to accommodations, food and beverage, so we all know that prices are creeping up in the hotel business and throughout the country,” said AAA's White. staff, NBC News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

© 2013

Video: Last-minute Labor Day travel tips

  1. Transcript of: Last-minute Labor Day travel tips

    TAMRON HALL reporting: This morning on TODAY'S TRAVEL , last-minute travel tips for your holiday weekend. AAA estimates more than 34 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles away from home this Labor Day weekend , and that's almost 10 percent more than we saw last year. AAA 's Nancy White is here with some tips for smooth traveling. Nancy , good morning.

    Ms. NANCY WHITE: Thanks, Tamron.

    HALL: I was so surprised to hear that more people are traveling when you consider the economy.

    Ms. WHITE: Yes. We're so used the dire news that we've been hearing so frequently, but it really is no surprise when you compare this year to last year, recognizing that GDP is actually up, consumer debt is down and there's a little bit of pent-up demand and people are actually anxious to get there and get out on the road.

    HALL: Want to have a little fun with the family. And speaking of the road, Hurricane Earl , great concern right now on the East Coast . People planning to perhaps head out a little bit earlier. How will that hurricane affect road travel?

    Ms. WHITE: Well, we anticipate there will be some effect. We're recommending, of course, that people prepare, plan early, call ahead to the airlines and look at alternate routes to get places. And the good news about the hurricane, it's almost out of here. We're hearing it's going to hit today and then be out for a beautiful weekend.

    HALL: Well, we all feel like a little bit of rain can mess up air travel , so now you've got to factor in Hurricane Earl . But what are you expecting for air travel over the next day or so?

    Ms. WHITE: Well, we anticipate that it will be localized, you know, primarily East Coast . Of course, that does cause repercussions throughout the system.

    HALL: Yeah.

    Ms. WHITE: So cautioning people to check ahead, get on your airline's Web site , call the 1-800 number, be prepared and get there early.

    HALL: So that's the major precaution there, call in. And even some of the airlines now will text message you...

    Ms. WHITE: That's true.

    HALL: ...or e-mail you if you've got a delay so that you don't waste your time going all the way to the airport...

    Ms. WHITE: That's right .

    HALL: ...or keep up on it. And, you know, it's also interesting we talk about more people traveling, people are spending nearly $50 more this Labor Day weekend ?

    Ms. WHITE: Again, looking at how things were last year, we're seeing that about 50 percent of that $50 increase is going to accommodations.

    HALL: Really.

    Ms. WHITE: Food and beverage . So we all know that prices are creeping up in the hotel biz and throughout the country, and that's where we're seeing that extra spend.

    HALL: What about gas prices ? I believe they're between 2.65, 2.75 across the country.

    Ms. WHITE: Actually this summer has been an anomaly. Typically we see prices increase...

    HALL: Mm-hmm.

    Ms. WHITE: we near the Labor Day holiday. And AAA is forecasting that prices will steady and remain flat.

    HALL: Right.

    Ms. WHITE: And actually, I think we're down about -- nearly 6 cents.

    HALL: Well, that's good from those days of $4, I mean, which were just absolutely horrible.

    Ms. WHITE: Yes.

    HALL: And you've got some advice for people who are driving and traveling. And your big concern, of course, is texting while driving. Very tempting to do, but a reminder not to do it.

    Ms. WHITE: Exactly. Keep your cell phone with you, but keep it charged and stowed. Keep it in your glove box.

    HALL: Hm.

    Ms. WHITE: This way, you won't be tempted to pick it up. And also, avoid other distractions...

    HALL: Yes.

    Ms. WHITE: ...such as eating in the car.

    HALL: Which is hard to do, it's Labor Day . You've got snacks packed. But it can be a distraction. And also pets.

    Ms. WHITE: Yes. We did a recent study and uncovered the fact that nearly one in five people travel with their pets in their laps. Not a safe thing to do.

    HALL: Yeah. On their laps?

    Ms. WHITE: On their laps.

    HALL: All right, keep the puppy in the back so that everybody is safe.

    Ms. WHITE: That's right . Puppy and kids in the back.

    HALL: All right.

    Ms. WHITE: Safest place.

    HALL: Well, Nancy , great advice. Interesting news, though, about more people traveling considering things.

Explainer: 10 products for a relaxing Labor Day weekend

  • Image: Laser Sphere
    Image courtesy Nerd Approved

    If you are fortunate enough to have an extended break this Labor Day weekend, it will be a great opportunity to relax and recharge your batteries. The following products could help you do just that, but be warned that extreme relaxation can result in extreme laziness. One minute you are enjoying some aromatherapy and the next you are riding on a couch around town in your pajamas. It's a slippery slope.

  • USB Aromatherapy Drive

    Image: USB Aromatherpay Drive
    Image courtesy Nerd Approved

    Prepare yourself for a weekend of relaxation before you even leave work with this USB-powered Fragrance Oil Drive. According to the product page, only three to five drops of oil are necessary to fill the air with the smell of peppermint, rose, jasmine or lavender all day long. Productivity will surely plummet for you and anyone in a nearby cubicle. $7 (USB Geek)

  • Stress Vase

    Image: Stress Vase
    Image courtesy Nerd Approved

    In order to fully enjoy your three-day weekend, it is necessary to first purge yourself of any major stresses. One way to achieve this is to walk deep, deep into the woods and scream all manner of obscenities at the top of your lungs. But that can be inconvenient for some. According to the Japanese manufacturer, this stress vase has a uniquely designed inner structure that helps absorb sound and  turn your angry shouts into mere whispers. ¥ 4,980 or $59 (Amazon Japan)

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  • HydroGlass

    Image: HydroGlass
    Image courtesy Nerd Approved

    Simply put, the HydroGlass creates a showering experience so lazy you don't even need to stand up. The basic framework is what's known as a Vichy shower — a multi-headed monster that is used in wet room therapy treatments with high-pressurewater massage. In addition to the eight shower heads, the HydroGlass goes a step further with a heated aquabed, warm water mattress and a base that can be transformed into a tranquil fish tank. Just don't get too comfortable. It would be a shame to drown while experiencing this kind of luxury. (HydroGlass)

  • Head Kenzan Massager

    Image: Head Kenzan Massager
    Image courtesy Nerd Approved

    It may look like a cheese grater for your scalp, but the Head Kenzan is actually a massager that promotes relaxation using 92 flexible bristles. Just lay down on the couch and use the handles to gently massage your scalp — all while secretly hoping that it will also magically stimulate hair growth. $53 (Japan Trend Shop)

  • WowWee Roboscooper

    Image: WowWee Roboscooper
    Image courtesy Nerd Approved

    So, at this point you have laid claim to a spot on the couch, and you are determined to ride out the weekend from that vantage point. Conceivably, you may find it necessary to pick up or transport something from room to room during this time. Needless to say, that is completely unacceptable. Instead, I suggest grabbing the remote control for this Roboscooper robot and let it do most of the work. Using its giant robot arms, Roboscooper is happy to follow your commands to pick underwear up off the floor or retrieve small objects from someone in another room. Once the payload has been acquired, you can store the objects in a little cargo bin and guide the robot back to you. If there's no work to be done, you could also switch Roboscooper into “Whack” mode and have him autonomously seek out objects using infrared vision and “whack” them out of the way for your amusement.  Roboscooper even speaks to announce “Let's go to work!” or to inform you if an object is too big to carry. $69.95 (Hammacher Schlemmer via Nerd Approved)

  • Lazy Sunday Pants

    Image: Lazy Sunday Pants
    Image courtesy Nerd Approved

    You've been on the couch for a while now, and you've decided that getting up to eat at the table is far, far too much work. That's where the aptly titled “Lazy Sunday Pants” come in. The pants feature a pocket for your television remotes as well as a removable tablecloth that easily accommodates standard-sized plates. €50 or $63 (mitemite)

  • Laser Sphere

    Image: Laser Sphere
    Image courtesy Nerd Approved

    It's getting dark, but at this point the stairs to your bedroom might as well be the ones in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. You're not feeling motivated like Rocky at the moment, so you decide to continue your couch-in with the Laser Sphere. It projects psychedelic light patterns inside the sphere or, if you choose to remove the lid, on the walls around you. This hypnotic and trippy light therapy will help free your mind of stress and whisk you off to sleep without the need for chemicals. £29.99 or $46 (iwoot via CubicleBot)

  • Personal Oxygen Bar

    Image: Personal Oxygen Bar
    Image courtesy Nerd Approved

    At last you have finally become so lazy that the simple act of breathing has become a chore. That's when you hook up your own personal oxygen bar. It works by drawing in ambient air, purifying it and  isolating the oxygen molecules. The oxygen is then pumped to a headpiece where it exits gently through an outlet near the mouth. Overall, the bar increases the concentration of oxygen you breathe by 30 percent, which helps promote a calm, relaxed feeling. $299.95 (Hammacher Schlemmer)

  • Motorized Couch

    Image: Motorized Couch
    Image courtesy Nerd Approved

    You hoped it wouldn't come to this, but you have been forced to actually exit the house. That wouldn't be a problem if you had a motorized couch like the one built by BYU students Nicholas Homer and Stewart Clyde. You could simply ride your couch wherever you needed to go. The couchmobile operates using the base from an old motorized wheelchair, but if you can't build one yourself you might be able to rent one for the weekend. (Motorized Couch Boys via Nerd Approved)

  • Vertical Bed

    Image: Vertical Bed
    Image courtesy Nerd Approved

    I don't know about you, but it seems like my days off are often spent accompanying my fiancée on shopping excursions that I have little or no interest in. Lumbering through the mall in a stupor somewhere between consciousness and sleep, I find myself wishing I could take a nap on the beds in the mattress stores. This Vertical Bed could help with that problem thanks to a harness system, noise-canceling headphones and opaque sunglasses that allow you to sleep standing upright. Unfortunately, the prototype from design studio Substitute Materials needs to hook into a subway grate for support — but here's hoping that a version is eventually made for indoor use. (Substitute Materials)

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