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dec 02

5 Ways Travelers Can Avoid Crowds This Holiday Season

This is precisely the kind of situation I try to avoid when I'm traveling. (Courtesy lunchtimemama/Flickr)

Driving may be the number one mode of transportation over the holiday season, but that doesn't mean fliers will have the skies to themselves. Air travel is up seven percent from last year, according to Orbitz. As someone who loves traveling (but hates crowds), that wasn't exactly music to my ears. Fortunately, there are ways to get where you need to go without battling the suitcase-wielding masses (or grappling with road rage). Here are a few travel-editor-approved tricks for you:

#1 Be smart about when you travel. Whether you're flying or driving, if you can travel on the holiday itself it's going to be cheaper and less hectic. If that's not possible, plan to arrive two days before (and to leave two days after) the holiday, since most folks will be making their trip the day immediately before and after the festivities. No matter when you're traveling, the earlier you can set out, the better.

#2 Consider alternative airports. Taking the time to compare flights into nearby airports could save you money, time and hassle. For example, instead of flying into Dulles International Airport (IAD) in Washington, D.C. consider Baltimore Washington International (BWI) in Baltimore. It's smaller, less crowded, and flights there tend to be more affordable. Yes, it's about a 40-minute train ride outside the city, but the time and money you'll save at the check-in counter could be well worth it.

#3 Book a non-stop flight. Every time your plane lands during peak travel times, the possibility of delays due to inclement weather or air-traffic congestion increases—and so do your odds of getting stuck with the unhappy masses. If a connection is necessary, try to fly through a southern hub, such as Dallas, Charlotte, or Phoenix, where you can at least eliminate weather as a problem. (A layover in Chicago, Detroit, or Minneapolis raises the probability of getting held up because of a storm.)

#4 Airport parking lots get filled up around the holidays, so use public transportation. If you must drive, consider a private parking lot near the airport: They'll often shuttle you to and from the terminal, and they let you book in advance so you won't have to worry about finding a space.

#5 If you're staying at a hotel, look into business hotels. Over the holidays, you'll find low rates (and fewer people) at classy city and suburban hotels that normally depend on business travelers. Families should consider all-suite hotels or long-stay hotels such as Homewood Suites and the Residence Inn, which have more room and good holiday prices.

Hope this helps! If you have any other tips to add, please share them below!

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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