ALL POSTS IN [Holidays]

Photography by Getty Images

AAA predicts that 93.3 million Americans will hit the road during the holidays, making this Christmas travel season the busiest it’s been in 6 years. More people are taking road trips this year because finding a reasonably-priced airplane ticket is like finding a needle in a haystack.

A record 84.4 million people will drive at least 50 miles between Dec. 22 and Jan. 1, according to the reputable travel agency. That’s 90.5% of holiday travelers, up from 89.3% just 6 years ago. So what does that mean to you? Expect plenty of traffic jams, crowded rest stops and bumper-to-bumper lines near highway tolls.

Need tips for dealing with this inevitable headache? Pack a couple travel-size games and snacks to keep the kids preoccupied. We recommend checking out some helpful family travel tips from Mommy Points blogger, Summer Hull, before you head out the door. Our travel expert offers up advice on everything from flying with a baby for the first time to finding hotels with health food options.

One thing travelers aren’t too concerned about is gas prices, which have dropped 50 cents since September, according to AAA. The average price at the pump will range from $3.20 and $3.40 a gallon by New Year’s Day, but that’s still not enough of a reason to thwart travelers’ plans to drive.

Although more people will be on the road, the airports will be just as busy. We recommend heading to the airport earlier than you normally would to avoid long TSA security lines — especially on the weekend before Christmas, the day after Christmas and on Jan. 2.  AAA’s economist John Heimlich expects 86% of the airplane seats to be filled with paying passengers, up from 85% last year.

Hundreds of flights have been canceled or delayed due to a major storm system making its way across the Midwest and headed for the East Coast of the US. Meteorologists predict that another storm on the West Coast may throw a wrench in travel plans next week; so before you head out the door, check out our weather forecast tool — powered by WeatherTrends360 — to find out if these 2 storms will affect your Christmas travel plans.

And if you’re headed to a big city, download The Layover app or peruse our airport guides to find out how you can kill some time during a lengthy layover.

Our 8th Day of Sparkle comes from Instagram user intlnabers, who points out that “The Christmas spirit is alive & well in Malaysia! Gorgeous holiday scene at #PavilionKL #tcholidaylights #andinapredominantlymuslimcountrynoless.”

Our 7th Day of Sparkle is from New York City, thanks to Instagram user vpedrianes. Keep sending us your best holiday lights photos using the hashtag #TCHolidayLights!

Day 6 of our 12 Days of Sparkle was taken in Temple Square in Salt Lake City Utah by Instagram user anditraveler.  Keep sending us your best holiday lights photos with the hashtag #TCHolidayLights!

Here at Travel Channel, we’re travel junkies (I know — gasp!), so it shouldn’t come as much surprise that we’ve all got travel-related gadgets on our list for Santa this year. As you can probably tell from our picks, we’re a pretty diverse group — so if you’re still looking for the perfect gift for a fellow world wanderer, chances are there’s something here that they’d like. Check out a few of our favorite picks below, or browse the full gallery. THEN, tell us, what’s on YOUR travel wish list? Leave it in the comments, or tweet using the hashtag #TCWishList.

1) Everpurse
2) Katadyn Pocket Water Filter
3) Gizmon
4) Morphie Juice Pack Plus
5) Bloom Theory Straps
6) Nalgene Flask
7) 36 Hours

Venture to Vancouver’s Inner Harbour for day 4 of our holiday lights Christmas countdown, courtesy of Instagram user icecreamcastles. Keep sending us your photos with the hashtag #TCHolidayLights!

Our 3rd Day of Sparkle takes us to Poland, courtesy of Instagram user Vistulaaparmtents. Keep sending us your photos with the hashtag #TCHolidayLights to be featured on our blog!

Our second Day of Sparkle comes from Instagram user Vpedrianes, because who doesn’t love New York City at Christmastime? Well, minus the crowds. This photo, of course, is of the iconic Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. Would you like your photo to be featured on our blog? Send us your best holiday lights shot with the hashtag #TCHolidayLights!

12 Days of Sparkle Day 2

We asked our fans to Instagram their favorite holiday lights photos using the hashtag #TCHolidayLights. Our first pick comes from Instagram user bostonthek. Despite the Starbucks Coffee sign, we instantly knew that this photo was taken in Germany. In fact, it was taken in the city of Esslingen, a small city on the Neckar River in Southern Germany. Come back tomorrow for another Day of Sparkle, and keep sending us your holiday lights photos!

A high-density, vertical city with tourists and locals from everywhere on the planet, New York delivers — no matter who you are or when you visit. But the holidays are a particularly nice time to head to the Big Apple, when the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, the holiday shops at Union Square, and the ice-skating rink in Central Park put the city in the holiday spirit. Lined with iconic museums, Central Park draws class field trips, jogging locals, and Hollywood film crews all year long. At Union Square, students take to the streets on skateboards and New York’s premier chefs seek out locally grown produce from the farmers’ market. Shoppers can splurge on Chanel, Prada, and Gucci along 5th Avenue, or venture deep into SoHo, the West Village, or the Lower East Side for insider boutiques, where one might glimpse New York’s acting elite. Meanwhile, art lovers can bask in the grand museums of the Upper East Side or preview up-and-coming imagery at Chelsea galleries.

Throughout the city, expect to pay a premium for cramped rooms — a cozy 200 square feet is about the norm. But remember that in New York, it’s not so much about the room as the location, location, location, instead. For old-world grandeur, Midtown East and the Upper East Side are home to the Waldorf-Astoria, the Peninsula, and the Pierre, an elegant, historic hotel across the street from Central Park, which offers a taste of grand old New York to those staying in any of its 189 small — but freshly renovated — guest rooms. Hip downtown spots include such notables as the Gramercy Park Hotel and the Soho Grand, where guests can find an authentic but accessible taste of the trendy downtown scene. And the hotel still attracts its fair share of celebrities. Of course, you’ll also find outposts of every major hotel franchise — from the Four Seasons and Mandarin Oriental up by Central Park to the more down-to-earth Hilton,Westin, and Marriott Marquis in Times Square.

- Oyster.com Staff

More on the Holidays in New York City:
Best Holiday Shopping in New York
Best New York Hotel Holiday Decorations
Christmas in New York City

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