[[AAA]] is predicting a slight drop in overall travel this Christmas, with 63.9 million people venturing 50 miles or more for the holiday. Of course, this should come as no surprise. “Without question, the economic downturn of 2008 eroded the discretionary income many Americans would have spent on travel and, for some, altered their travel plans throughout the year,” said AAA President and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet.
Of those 63.9 million people, only 8.1 million are expected to take to the sky. But those 8.1 million people may be looking at a rough week for travel due to some nasty weather, particularly in the Northeast, which is bracing for at least two snowstorms. It’s worth remembering, then, that there are several steps you can take to minimize delays and stress at the airport.
Before you leave to catch your flight (and you should leave early, remember), program important numbers into your phone. This way, when a foot of snow is dumped on your holiday travel plans, you can react immediately and find an alternative. Also, pack your gifts wisely, and remember that wrapped gifts in your carry-on will likely be unwrapped by TSA officials (you can even ship your gifts directly to the recipient). Be creative with other difficult-to-pack items (like skis) and weigh the cost of baggage fees versus shipping costs. And last but certainly not least, don’t feel bad about shopping last-minute at the airport for your weird second-cousin twice removed who you didn’t even know was invited to Christmas dinner.
Of course, if only 8.1 million travelers out of 63.9 million are flying, that means a lot of people are driving—some 52 million people, to be exact. For all the road warriors out there (myself included—New Jersey, here I come!), here are some tips for a safe drive. Happy travels!