The busy holiday travel season is underway, with airports and other transport hubs seeing major increases in traffic. While this can be an exciting time, health experts warn the crowds also bring increased risks of catching illnesses. Proper planning and preventative measures are key to staying healthy amid the holiday hustle.
Airports Brace For One Of The Busiest Christmas Travel Periods
According to American Automobile Association estimates, over 6 million people will fly over the Christmas holiday this year, an increase of more than 25% compared to 2022 . Airports and airlines alike are bracing for the influx:
“We expect to transport as many as 150,000 passengers per day during some of our busiest travel days,” said Thomas Brunson, Director of Customer Experience at American Airlines.
Other major carriers like United and Delta also anticipate record-breaking passenger loads leading up to December 25th.
The busiest travel days are expected to be December 23rd for departures and January 2nd for returns. Major metro hubs like New York City recommend arriving 3 hours early for domestic flights and 4 hours for international in order to accommodate long check-in and security queue times .
Columbus, Ohio Travel Spikes
Smaller regional airports are also preparing for spikes in holiday volumes. For example, Columbus, Ohio officials say between December 23rd-26th, passenger traffic at John Glenn International Airport will swell over 50% compared to an average week .
To avoid excessive wait times, travelers heading to or from Columbus should plan to arrive around:
- 5-7 AM or 10 PM-midnight for the lowest congestion
- 2-5 PM for the highest congestion
Health Risks – How To Avoid Bringing Home A Souvenir Illness
While exciting, the holiday travel rush does come with health downsides. Crowded planes, rest stops, and tourist destinations mean increased exposure to all manner of germs and illnesses.
According to microbiology researchers, the highest-risk areas for catching colds, flu, respiratory infections, stomach bugs, and more are:
Germiest Places On A Plane 
|Multiple surfaces touched by germy hands
|19x more bacteria than a toilet seat
To minimize risks while flying:
- Sanitize hands frequently
- Use disinfectant wipes on tray tables, armrests
- Avoid lavatories near end of flight when traffic is highest
- Bring sanitizing gels, sprays, wipes in carry-on bags
- Choose a window seat since people traffic is lower
Other high exposure areas at transportation venues:
- Check-in kiosks
- Security bins
- Hand rails, elevator buttons
- Water fountains
Simple preventative measures like washing hands, sanitizing surfaces, avoiding very crowded areas when possible, and not touching your face can greatly reduce the odds of bringing home an unwelcome vacation viral keepsake.
Coping With Travel Stress During The Holidays
Beyond health issues, the holiday travel rush can also elevate stress levels – leading to anxiety, diminished enjoyment, and mental exhaustion. A 2021 survey found 62% of Americans reported increased stress and anxiety related to holiday travel compared to other times .
Packed travel venues, weather delays, financial pressures, family gatherings, disrupted routines, and other factors converge to test even the most stoic.
University of Kentucky health services director Jeanne Miller offers travelers these stress management tips :
- Make time for plenty of rest before and after trip
- Stay hydrated – avoid alcohol which can worsen jet lag
- Stick to normal sleep cycles as much as possible
- Incorporate relaxing activities like light exercise, music
- Don’t overschedule visits and outings
Other experts advise strategies like being flexible with plans, scaling back expectations for a “perfect” vacation, and focusing on quality time rather than specific activities. Simple self-care routines can also bolster resilience.
5 Minute Daily Stress Relief For Travelers
- Drink a cup of soothing herbal tea
- Try deep breathing exercises
- Write in a gratitude journal
- Take a short walk outdoors
- Listen to calming music
While challenging at times, keeping things in perspective and tending to basic health needs helps counter the extra tension busy holiday travel brings. Staying informed on crowds, delays, and germ hotspots makes navigating the season safer and less demanding.
To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.