Answer: 94 million.
Question: How many people in this country will be traveling over the Christmas holiday?
While many of us want or feel obligated to be with the ones we love for the holidays, this statistic from the Department of Transportation is enough to make you run to your room, hide under the covers and not come out until 2015.
But don’t panic.
There is a plan — and it’s to have a plan.
“The most important thing to have when you walk out the door is a plan,” said Dave Austin, vice president of marketing for AARP Services, in a phone interview from Washington, D.C. “You need to know how much you can spend, where will you stay and what you will do when you get there.”
While spontaneous travel can be a wonderful and exciting thing, it’s not the way to approach trips during the end-of-the-year holidays. People without a plan set themselves up for a lot of anxiety and frustration, so replace spontaneity with flexibility, if possible.
“Most people travel just before and just after the holiday, so if you can travel on the holiday, you won’t be in the middle of the crowds,” suggested Austin who typically travels early on Thanksgiving or Christmas morning. He still arrives in time for the family celebration.
Many of the 94 million holiday travelers will take to the roads, especially with the price of gas less costly than a year ago. Others will fly, and with all those extra charges for baggage, it makes sense to ship the presents ahead of time or give gift cards, Austin added.
Overall, the travel industry took a big hit between 2010 and 2013 because of the recession, but people are starting to spend again. (Those 50 and older spent more than $12 billion on travel in 2013.) That’s the good news; the bad news is that this means more folks in trains, planes and automobiles.
“So don’t just hit the road,” Austin said. “Map out where you are going, where to eat and stick to a budget.”
Planning ahead will score some good deals with ski-and-stay packages at Big Bear Mountain Resorts. Discount packages (as low as $89 midweek and $109 weekends) include lodging in private-home rentals, lodges, bed-and-breakfasts, condos and cabins; and all-day, interchangeable lift tickets good for both Snow Summit and Bear Mountain. A minimum of two nights’ lodging and two days’ lift tickets for weekend packages are required. Check-in dates run from now until the end of the 2014/2015 ski season. Some restrictions apply. HYPERLINK “http://www.bigbear.com/” www.bigbear.com or call 800-424-4232.
For Southern Californians, the arrival of December marks the beginning of the gray whale migration. Actually, they began their 14,000-mile, round-trip journey from the Bering Sea to the lagoons of Baja California weeks ago, but the first gray whales begin passing our shores about now. A 45-minute drive north to Dana Point Harbor gives you a ringside seat in one of Dana Wharf’s several vessels. They take passengers a few minutes offshore to view not only the gray whales, but some of the area’s other sea life — blue whales, humpbacks, several species of dolphins, sea lions and birds.
Discounts available for seniors, military and kids; children 2 or younger free. Sightings guaranteed or ride free on another trip. 34675 Golden Lantern, Dana Point. (949) 496-5794. HYPERLINK “http://www.danawharf.com” www.danawharf.com
E’Louise Ondash is a veteran, award-winning journalist who was an investigative reporter, feature writer and columnist for the Times Advocate and the North County Times. She has written travel features for The Coast News since 2003.