ST. GEORGE — With the holiday travel season underway, the stress of planning and partaking in a trip could easily turn someone into a Grinch. In order to help avoid becoming green with rage over snags that could potentially put a damper on that holiday sojourn, what follows are a few tips on how to lessen the associated stress of going to and from where you plan to spend the Christmas and New Year’s.

Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch as portrayed by Jim Carrey in the 2000 film adaption of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” | Image courtesy of United Pictures, St. George News

If these can your heart grow three sizes in joy the anticipation of that trip, all the better.

The AAA is reporting a busy travel season with 115.2 Americans expected to drive 50 miles or more from home over the 10-day holiday period. This year’s total number of domestic travelers is a 2.2% increase over last year and the second highest year-end travel forecast since 2000, when AAA began tracking holiday travel. 2019 remains the busiest Christmas and New Year’s travel period on record with 119 million travelers.

“The travel outline for the year-end holidays echoes what we’ve been seeing in travel throughout 2023,” Brian Ng, senior vice president of membership and travel marketing for AAA Utah, said in a press release. “Despite high costs, more Americans are prioritizing creating memories with loved ones and exploring new destinations.”

The number of people traveling by other modes, like bus, train, and cruise, is projected to surpass 2019. AAA expects more than 4 million Americans will take alternative transportation over Christmas and New Year’s compared to 3.66 million in 2022 and 3.89 million in 2019. Demand for cruises has skyrocketed post-pandemic, and the industry is now preparing for the wave of bookings that traditionally happens at the start of the new year.

For the holiday road warriors

In this file photo, traffic on Interstate 15 near the St. George Boulevard/Exit 8 overpass, St. George, Utah, Feb. 12, 2021 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

The majority of Americans — nearly 104 million — will be taking to the road, a 1.8% increase over last year. Drivers are expected to pay around the same or less for a gallon of gas this year as they did last year, when the national average on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day was $3.10 and $3.20 respectively.

According to the AAA, INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights, said there will be several days of potentially bad traffic during the 10-day holiday period. This period covers Saturday, Dec. 23 through Monday, Jan. 1.

Dec. 23 and Dec. 28 are projected to be the more congested travel days. Another traffic-heavy day will be Dec. 30 as people either travel home or head somewhere for New Year’s Eve. The best times to hit the road are before lunchtime or after 7 p.m.

“Nationwide, drivers could see travel times up to 20% longer this holiday season.” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX. “Avoid peak commuting hours and use traffic apps, local DOT notifications, and 511 services to minimize holiday travel traffic frustrations.”

Best and worst times to travel by car, courtesy of AAA/INRIX

Worst Travel Time
Best Travel Time

Saturday, Dec. 23
11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Before 10 a.m.

Sunday, Dec. 24
Minimal Traffic Impact Expected

Monday, Dec. 25
Minimal Traffic Impact Expected

Tuesday, Dec. 26
1 – 5 p.m.
Before 12 p.m.

Wednesday, Dec. 27
1– 7 p.m.
Before 12 p.m.

Thursday, Dec. 28
2– 8 p.m.
Before 12 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 29
2– 8 p.m.
Before 12 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 30
5– 7 p.m.
Before 12 p.m.

Sunday, Dec. 31
Minimal Traffic Impact Expected

Monday, Jan. 1
Minimal Traffic Impact Expected

Utah Department of Transportation 511 road conditions.
Arizona Department of Transportation 511 road conditions.
Nevada Department of Transportation 511 road conditions.

Tips for driving to that holiday destination (or a road trip in general)

File photo of images captured by a UDOT camera of the traffic backup on I-15, Washington, Utah, Sept. 23, 2023 | Photo by UDOT, St. George News

Plan your route: Use GPS or maps to plan your route in advance. Be aware of any construction, road closures, or traffic that could affect your journey.

Vehicle check: Before you go, ensure your car is in good condition. Check the tires, brakes, oil, and coolant levels. Consider a professional inspection if needed.
Pack essentials: Pack snacks, water, a first aid kit, extra clothes, a flashlight, and necessary medications. Don’t forget chargers for your devices.
Comfort matters: Wear comfortable clothes and shoes for the journey. Consider bringing pillows or cushions for added comfort.
Take breaks: Plan regular breaks to stretch your legs, at least every couple of hours. This helps prevent fatigue and keeps you alert.
Entertainment: Bring music playlists, audiobooks, podcasts, or games to keep passengers entertained during the trip.
Stay hydrated and eat light: Drink water regularly to stay hydrated, but avoid excessive liquids to minimize restroom stops. Opt for light, easily digestible snacks.

Be Courteous on the road and drive safely: Use signals, avoid aggressive driving, and give way when necessary. Obey traffic laws, wear seat belts and avoid distractions like phone usage while driving, prioritizing safety.

In this file photo, travelers on Interstate 15 are experiencing long delays near both Littlefield, Ariz., and Mesquite, Nev., Oct. 8, 2022 | Photo by Nick Yamashita, St. George News

Rest and Rotate: If on a long drive with others, take turns driving and ensure everyone gets adequate rest.

Maintain Cleanliness: Keep your vehicle tidy and dispose of trash responsibly.
Emergency kit: Have an emergency kit with essentials like a spare tire, jumper cables, tools, and a roadside assistance contact number.
Weather considerations: Check weather forecasts along your route and prepare accordingly, especially in winter or areas prone to sudden weather changes.
Keep important contacts handy: Save emergency numbers, hotel reservations, and any necessary contacts on your phone or written down.
Stay updated: Consider using apps or websites that provide real-time traffic updates to avoid congestion.
Plan accommodations: If it’s a multi-day trip, book accommodations in advance to avoid last-minute stress.
Drive during off-peak hours: Try to avoid rush hours in cities or busy highways to have a smoother ride.
Fuel efficiency: AAA recommends using it’s mobile app’s newly added Apple Carplay features to locate the lowest gas prices along your route. The app can also be used to download a digital AAA Membership card, request roadside assistance, and access electric vehicle features.

For those taking to the friendly skies

File photo of a plane from the Dallas-Fort Worth connecting with the jet bridge at the St. George Regional Airport, allowing passengers to disembark, St. George, Utah, Sept. 26, 2019 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Airports are expected to be the busiest they’ve ever been over the Christmas and New Year’s travel period. AAA projects 7.5 million air travelers this holiday season, surpassing 2019’s record of 7.3 million passengers.

Before you get on your way, the AAA recommends to avoid travel mishaps reversing a parking spot at the airport where available, avoiding checking in luggage if possible, and knowing your travel rights.

At the airport

Arrive Early: Reach the airport well in advance to account for security checks and potential lines.
Respect Security Rules: Comply with security guidelines, have necessary documents handy, and remove items as required.
Mind Personal Space: Respect queues, avoid pushing/shoving, and be patient during busy times.
Be Mindful of Noise: Keep conversations at a considerate volume, especially in crowded areas.

Chris Velazco of The Washington Post offered a list of “tech travel etiquette” to consider. This includes not hogging power outlets at airport to charge you devices, Rather, consider packing an outlet splitter and sharing it with others who need to charge their devices as well.

SkyWest jet, location and date unknown | Photo courtesy of SkyWest Airlines, St. George News

When on the plane

Stow Baggage Efficiently: Place carry-ons in overhead bins neatly to save space for others.
Seat Etiquette: Respect armrest and leg space, avoiding excessive intrusion into neighboring seats.
Odor and Hygiene: Maintain personal hygiene and avoid strong scents that might bother others. This includes avoiding eating foods before the flight that can also produce a noticeable and potentially offensive aroma. Wearing cologne and perfumes is also discouraged — while you may have a favorite fragrance it may not be so welcome in close quarters to others, and some people can also be allergic to colognes and perfumes as well. You may also want avoid packing durian fruit so your plane doesn’t get grounded.
In-flight Entertainment: Use headphones for audio/video to avoid disturbing fellow passengers.

Velazco also advises dimming the lights on phones and other electronics while others around you are trying to sleep, particularly on red-eye flights. Also be mindful of what you may decide to watch while passing the time, especially if there are little kids around you. As Velazco puts it, something like “Silence of the Lambs” may scare “the tiny screen peepers around you.”

General Considerations

Be Patient and Understanding: Travel can be stressful, but patience can make the experience smoother for everyone.
Respect Cultural Differences: If traveling internationally, learn about local customs and etiquette to show proper respect. There’s no need to get upset if everyone outside of the United States calls it football instead of soccer.

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