A holiday travel survival guide: 5 things you absolutely must know

A holiday travel survival guide: 5 things you absolutely must know
By | December 6th, 2009

Ask Suzy Bennett how she’s approaching the 2009 holiday travel season, and she’ll tell you she isn’t.

“We’re staying home,” says Bennett, who works for a water treatment company in Linwood, Kan. “Or we’re driving.”

Why? Like many other travelers, Bennett is tired of the nonexistent customer service that seems to be the standard these days, and which only gets worse as the inevitable crush of passengers descends on every airport, bus station and train terminal between now and New Year’s Day.

“It’s just not worth the aggravation of flying, except when absolutely necessary,” she said. “My husband and I will drive the 600 miles to our family for the holiday and not be any more tired or annoyed than by flying. Plus, we won’t have to worry about luggage and gifts.”

That’s the bad news. The good news? Travelers are a lot more optimistic about how they’ll get where they’re going during the holidays. A survey conducted by the digital marketing firm Zeta Interactive found that the online buzz about holiday travel is trending 84 percent positive, as opposed to just 68 percent positive a year ago. Among the top terms used by bloggers in association with the 2009 holidays were words like “enjoy” (14 percent), “relax” (12 percent) and “rest” (11 percent).

Ah, almost makes you want to drive to Grandma’s this year.

Snap out of it!

The upcoming travel season will be different than past ones in several important ways. You need more than promises of warm fuzzies. You need a survival guide.

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Here you go:

1. Most of us will only travel if we have to.
That’s the assessment of Juline Mills, who teaches at the University of New Haven’s department of hospitality management. “The upcoming travel season will see people traveling primarily to visit friends and relatives, and not so much for leisure vacations,” she says.

That is a significant departure from previous holidays, in which Americans used Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s to get away. For those of us who do decide to go somewhere, Mills predicts more people will cruise, because it’s “the best deal in travel,” adding, “meals, lodging, and most activities are included.”

Survival strategy: If you don’t stay home, steer clear of a cruise vacation. You’ll avoid the crowds.

2. Last-minute is in.
The time between booking and departure is growing ever shorter, to the point where the “last-minute” vacation is becoming the norm.

The 2009 holiday travel season will see more 11th-hour getaways than ever, says Helen Fullem, president or The Crown Collection, a Paramus, N.J.-based marketing group for luxury hotels. “Every year in the past that I can remember — going 30 years back — the best hotels in the Caribbean were virtually sold out by the middle of the year,” she said.

“Travelers would pay any price in order to secure reservations for the entire family at some of the chicest and most expensive resorts and be grateful that they even secured the space, at whatever cost,” she added.