BOSTON (MainStreet) -- Holiday travelers may take comfort in knowing Christmas comes once a year, but their nerves are no less frayed by that single trip.
Roughly 34% of Americans plan to travel this Christmas and 16% plan to travel for New Year's, according to travel site TripAdvisor's 2011 holiday survey. That's up from 32% last Christmas and 13% from New Year's. While 11% of those travelers are just going to check out the decorations and window displays in another city and 18% plan to spend the holidays beachside in a southern latitude, 59% plan to visit family and friends.
Not surprisingly, 51% expect to be stressed out by the experience. Angst over airline cancellations (experienced by 22% of anxious travelers), inclement weather (21%), travel costs (15%), overcrowded airports (11%) and traffic snarls (8%) is making this just about the least wonderful time of year for anyone who has to leave home this holiday. Those fears aren't just coming from cynical holiday Scrooges, but from travelers haunted by past holiday hassles -- including 29% who've sat through traffic jams, 23% who've had flights cancelled, 14% who've lost their luggage, 8% who've missed a flight and another 8% who just forgot to pack the presents.
There are a couple of ways travelers can deal with it. One is for the 46% of holiday travelers flying this year to hit the booze on the drink cart, as 8% already plan to. Another option is to just take a sleeping pill, zonk out and let someone else steer, as 4% of travelers will during their holiday flights (hopefully not with a cocktail). A slightly simpler and less self-destructive plan being implemented by 47% of travelers is to fly during off-peak hours.
"When you're driving, leaving very early in the morning or very late at night can make a huge difference in the amount of time you spend on the road," says Josey Miller, travel expert for TripAdvisor. "When you're flying, try to book a flight that leaves really early in the morning, like the 6:30 a.m. flight, because airlines won't have had a chance at that time to get behind in their schedule and you're less likely to be delayed."