Here’s why holiday travel drives us crazy, according to research

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A new study conducted by OnePoll on behalf of parking app SpotHero examined how Americans travel for the holidays and the associated stress points. (Photo by John-Mark Smith on Unsplash)

Traveling for the holidays will include 12 disagreements for the average American, according to new research.

From arguments with significant others to friends or even strangers, a survey of 2,000 Americans — who have ever traveled for a winter holiday — found this is just one of the things respondents will encounter on the way to their destination.

In addition to that, the average respondent will face eight moments of stress along the way and will worry about being late to their destination four separate times.

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of parking app SpotHero, the survey examined how Americans travel for the holidays and the associated stress points.

Results revealed respondents are so worried about holiday travel, they build an extra 102 minutes into their journey to account for unexpected delays — adding up to almost two hours.

And the average respondent will begin to stress about their trip five days in advance. Travel for the holidays isn’t always smooth, and 93% said they become more stressed when something goes awry, like unexpected delays or heavy traffic.

Turns out, the most stressful part of traveling for the holidays isn’t security lines at the airport or losing luggage, but instead, it’s hazardous road conditions due to winter weather (44%).

Another top stress point was finding a parking spot at the airport (36%) — which was ahead of unexpected departure delays at the airport (33%) and even long TSA security lines (31%).

Other top points of stress included heavy traffic on highways (41%) and losing something while traveling (37%).

“While holiday travel can be stressful, there are some simple ways to set yourself up for success and minimize headaches, reduce travel time and save money in the process,” said Mark Lawrence, co-founder and CEO of SpotHero. “Checking into your flight early, paying bag fees online, and booking a guaranteed parking spot near the airport a few days in advance can all go a long way to reducing anxiety on the busiest travel days of the year.”

Luckily, the stress of the holidays doesn’t last forever.

For those driving for the holidays, the stress is most likely to dissipate once their car is packed (26%), once they’re parked at their destination (18%) or when they start driving (16%).

On the other hand, for respondents planning to fly, they can count on their stress levels to go down once when they arrive at the airport (22%), get through security (18%) or when they unpack at their final destination (17%).

Three in 10 of those who fly also said they prefer to drive themselves and park their own car at the airport.

This may be for good reason, as 28% of those who fly said they wouldn’t be likely to take a rideshare to the airport.

Of these respondents, 40% said they don’t think ridesharing is reliable and 37% said it takes too long for rideshares to pick them up.

“New regulations and increased terminal traffic are making it less convenient for travelers to hail a ride to and from the airport on busy holiday travel days,” said Lawrence. “Many are finding that driving and parking at or near the airport is often a more reliable and cost-effective option — in fact, three out of four travelers surveyed said driving themselves gave them more control over their trip.”


  1. Hazardous road conditions due to winter weather 44%
  2. Heavy traffic on highways 41%
  3. Losing something during your travel 37%
  4. Finding a parking spot at the airport 36%
  5. Packing your bags 36%
  6. Getting to the airport and realizing you forgot your ID 35%
  7. Unexpected departure delays at the airport 33%
  8. Long TSA security lines 31%
  9. Waiting to pick up your bags at baggage claim 31%
  10. Cancellations due to winter weather 30%
  11. Arriving at the airport, bus or train station late 30%
  12. Train delays along your route 28%
  13. Lost luggage 27%
  14. Not enough room in the overhead bins on a plane 27%
  15. Incorrect seat assignment on a plane 26%
  16. Boarding a plane, train or bus 26%
  17. Unexpected gate changes at the airport 26%
  18. Finding a seat on a crowded train or bus 25%
  19. Layovers/changing planes 24%
  20. Packing up the car for a long drive 24%

>> Download the video and infographic for this research story <<

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