Your guide to 2023 holiday travel

Tips for traveling by car and air

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Susan Meyer

Senior Editorial Manager

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  • Licensed Insurance Agent — Property and Casualty

Susan is a licensed insurance agent and has worked as a writer and editor for over 10 years across a number of industries. She has worked at The Zebr…

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Ross Martin

Insurance Writer

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  • 4+ years in the Insurance Industry

Ross joined The Zebra as a writer and researcher in 2019. He specializes in writing insurance content to help shoppers make informed decisions.

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Your guide to 2023 holiday travel

If you’re traveling this holiday season, you already know to prepare for high prices, crowded roads and airports and a healthy dose of stress and anxiety. 

Last year bad weather around the Christmas holidays combined with some staffing shortages and technology issues led to thousands of canceled flights. This particularly affected people flying Southwest Airlines[1]

According to one survey, 48% of Americans plan to travel this holiday season[2]. So what’s in the cards for 2023 holiday travel? Whether you’re traveling by road or by air, here are our tips for making it a safe and joyful holiday travel experience.

Traveling by car: Navigating the open road

If you’re planning to travel by car this holiday season, prepare for delays. Due to traffic congestion and more drivers on the road, you can expect travel times to average 25% longer, with the most congested days being December 22, 27 and 28 and January 2 (based on data from 2022)[3]

Here are some tips to make the busy road ahead a bit easier. 

1. Plan ahead

One of the primary concerns for road travel during the holidays is increased traffic. Plan your route well in advance and consider alternative routes to avoid congestion. Use navigation apps that provide real-time traffic updates to help you make informed decisions along the way.

2. Check your vehicle

Before embarking on a long journey, ensure your vehicle is in top condition. Regular maintenance checks, including tire pressure, oil levels and brake inspection can prevent unexpected breakdowns and ensure a smooth ride.

3. Pack wisely

Overpacking can lead to a cramped and uncomfortable journey. Prioritize essential items, and don't forget to pack an emergency kit with essentials like a first aid kit, flashlight and basic tools. Make sure your spare tire is in good condition.

4. Be mindful of weather

Winter weather can be unpredictable, especially if your route takes you through areas prone to snow and ice. Check the weather forecast and road conditions before you leave. Pack warm clothing, blankets and any necessary tools for dealing with snowy or icy conditions.

5. Schedule breaks

Long drives can be tiring, so plan regular breaks to stretch your legs, grab a snack and rest your eyes. Factor in extra time for potential delays due to traffic or adverse weather conditions.

6. Be alert and avoid accidents

Obviously, it’s not the first thing we want to think about at some of the happiest occasions of the year, but traffic fatalities do increase around the holidays with greater numbers on the road and the addition of alcohol-fueled celebrations. The National Safety Council predicts over 500 traffic fatalities in the 2023 Thanksgiving weekend alone[4]. Take extra care when driving and be alert to drivers who may be impaired. If you have any concerns about your own safety behind the wheel, get an Uber.

Traveling by air: Navigating the skies

Those traveling longer distances may be choosing to brave the crowded airports. Experts are predicting record amounts of air travel this year, up as much as 7% from last year’s holiday season[5]

Here are some tips for not exhausting all your money, time and sanity while flying this holiday season. 

1. Book early and be flexible

The holiday season is one of the busiest times for air travel. To secure the best prices and ensure availability, book your flights well in advance. Consider flexible travel dates to find more affordable options. The most expensive dates of travel on average are December 22 and 29[6]. Depending on your plans, consider flying on the Thanksgiving or Christmas holidays themselves to save. 

2. Be aware of security measures

Airport security is a top concern for air travelers. Familiarize yourself with current security regulations to minimize delays. Arrive at the airport with ample time to spare, especially during peak travel times.

3. Pack strategically

Airlines often have specific rules regarding baggage, so check the guidelines before packing. Consider shipping gifts or other non-essential items ahead of time to lighten your load and avoid potential baggage fees.

4. Stay informed

Flight schedules can be affected by various factors, including weather and air traffic. Stay informed about your flight status by checking airline apps or websites regularly.

5. Plan for the worst

As last year’s Southwest debacle reminded us, it’s a good idea to hope for the best but plan for the worst. Have a contingency plan in case of delays or cancellations. Book refundable hotels and rentals, if possible, in case your plans change. You may also want to consider booking travel insurance.

Wrapping up

Holiday travel can be both exhilarating and challenging. By planning ahead, staying informed, and being adaptable, you can navigate the holiday season with ease, whether you're hitting the open road or soaring through the skies. Safe travels, and may your holiday season be filled with joy and unforgettable moments!