Holiday Travel Tips for Drivers and Fliers

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By M. Johanson | December 22, 2011 2:34 AM EST

The Christmas spirit is alive and well according to a new AAA survey that finds Americans will travel in record numbers this holiday season.

Nearly 92 million Americans are expected to drive or fly 50 miles or more from home between Dec. 23, 2011 and Jan. 2, 2012, according to the survey released last Wednesday. That represents a 1.4 percent increase over the previous year and marks the second-highest year-end travel forecast in a decade, the association said.

Whether you're traveling by air or by land, make sure to check out these tips for travel before you head out to maximize holiday travel happiness and minimize coal-in-the-stocking grief.

Tips for the Road

Know When to Travel - AAA estimates that 91 percent of holiday travelers will use the nation's roadways. If you can avoid traveling at peak times, you'll have a more enjoyable trip.

Check Road Conditions - If you are traveling in a cold or mountainous region, make sure to check the road conditions before you head out. Forecasters warn travel conditions across much of the West and Midwest will be "dangerous, if not impossible" Wednesday and Thursday due to blizzard conditions. Make sure to check conditions before you hit the road.

Know what to Pack - If you're stuck in traffic on the highway in the middle of nowhere, you're going to want to have some drinks and snacks on hand to hold you over. In addition to snacks, make a point of packing for automotive emergencies. Make sure your car has a flashlight, blankets, a car cellphone charger, a can of aerosol tire repair, duct tape, and motor oil ... just in case.

Check Gas Prices - According to the Lundberg Survey of fuel prices released Sunday, the average price of gasoline is $3.24 per gallon, slightly higher than last year. Check AAA's Fuel Gauge Report or the Web site Gas Buddy to find the best spots to fuel up and save.

Rest Up - Get at least 6-8 hours of sleep the night before a long trip. Fatigue decreases reaction time and awareness. The last thing you need on your holiday is an accident.

Tips for the Air

Travel Light - Traveling light will save you time and money, especially with increasingly hefty checked-bag fees.

Print out your Boarding Pass: Get this done at home before you leave and head straight to security when you get to the airport. Also, make sure your name is spelled correctly on the itinerary before it becomes a problem with security.

Check for Delays - Before you head to the airport, double-check for flight delays. You can also sign up through an airline's Web site for flight-delay alerts. Similarly, have a number for your airline handy in case of flight cancellations.

Don't Wrap Gifts - TSA urges travelers not to wrap gifts until they've arrived at their destination. Furthermore, food items such as salsas, jams, sauces, syrups and dips will not be allowed through the checkpoint unless they are in containers three ounces or less and in your one quart zip-top bag.

Get to the Airport Early - Allow at least two hours for check-in and security lines, even for short domestic flights.

Don't Forget Your ID - Any passenger 18 and older will need a federal or state-issued photo ID at airport checkpoints. All passengers traveling internationally will need their passport. Forgetting an ID or passport can make or break your trip.

Free Wi-Fi - Skype is offering a gift for all holiday travelers: Free Wi-Fi. From Dec. 21-27, travelers passing through over 50 airports across the country will be able to access third-party hotspots using Skype Wi-Fi and connect with loved ones via Skype video or voice calls for free.

Don't Stress - Relax, it's the holidays! Consider splurging on a day pass to an airline lounge for nice seats, tasty drinks, and less crowds.

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