Nightmare of Holiday Travel: Not Over Yet | Other Orlando

  • No, it’s not really a nightmare. Not for most of us.

    The vast majority who still enjoy it, we mean.

    But the holiday season is not quite over yet.

    And do you have plans for the New Year?

    New Year’s Eve, specifically?

    New Years Eve in Orlando

    It’s still a part of the holiday travel season.

    An important part.

    And if you’re not part of the travel industry, you might not know it…

    …But this is tourism’s favorite time of the year.

    No surprise.

    The crowds. Big crowds.

    It may not be your own favorite, however.

    And no matter how experienced you are with coming here, it can’t hurt to consider some of what we think is the best advice (particularly at this time of year).

    Something to keep in mind

    The largest crowds travel between Christmas and New Year’s.
    So you perhaps need a strategy.

    Even more so than other times of the year.

    If you’re here in Orlando at the theme parks, we have some suggestions.

    And some more for holiday travel in general. But many of our suggestions apply year-round, of course.

    And even if you have not read or heard the statistics: this holiday season, which extends to New Year’s Eve, is a record.

    This year was was the busiest year for travel in almost ten years, according to AAA (which regularly reports on subjects like this one).

    More than two-thirds of Americans say they traveled either at Thanksgiving, Christmas or plan to go somewhere or travel on New Year’s Eve.

    The busiest day of all was Christmas Day.

    Perhaps you say to yourself:

    “Thank God it’s over.”

    But not quite.

    People are still traveling, including theme parks (and we will have more to say about them later in this report).

    So here is some end-of-year advice on how to cope with the times.

    Fear of flying can be real

    First, what if you are coming by airplane to Orlando from the frozen north?

    Estimates are that five percent of the time your flights will be cancelled (that was the figure last year, and this time should be about the same).

    Five percent.

    Not bad odds, are they?

    Unless you are among those five.

    One good way to avoid this -- and one you probably are already doing it -- is by keeping track via social media.

    Yes, they often are more likely to announce delays and cancellations first.

    Even before the airlines themselves.

    But don’t hesitate to sign up for the airlines, either.

    They do have an interest in this subject, after all.

    So what can you do if your air carrier cancels on you?

    If your flight is canceled while you're at the airport, get in line to speak to a representative, but also give the carrier's customer service line a call; travelers who do this often get quicker service.

    Travel is still not rocket science

    And is not entirely predictable.

    But the past record shows us that chances are better of non-cancelled flights if you book an early morning one.

    One statistic explains why:

    In one recent year, 91 percent of flights departing between 7 and 8 a.m. took off on time.

    If your plane takes off on time, the odds are much better it will also arrive on time.

    That’s true even in snow-struck areas such as Chicago and just about anywhere in the state of Minnesota.

    In Orlando, of course, the main hazard to flights flying in holding patterns prior to your eagerly awaited arrival is usually lightning strikes.

    The area gets a lot of them.

    But something to keep in mind at this time of year: While winter snows and howling winds up north are the main culprits of airline delays, airline officials say, that is far from the norm here.

    If you’re curious (and it may be too late for your reservation), but Frontier in one study came in last for flight delays. Hawaiian was the first, while Delta was second.

    Here’s a suggestion even if you have already booked your flight. And it’s way too late to change an airline.

    Coping with overbooked flights

    Since as you know, it it’s not weather that is delaying you, it is usually overbooked flights. Airlines regularly overbook flights to help offset no-shows and to ensure that flights are packed with paying customers.

    In a recent year, out of 595 million passengers, about 681,100 were denied seats on planes, according to the US Department of Transportation.

    So the remedy that helps the most here:

    Check in early at the airport for your flight.

    Most airlines start at the bottom of the "check-in list" and work their way up when it comes to bumping travelers from oversold flights or for other delays.

    So when you are here, where do you stay?

    After all, you might want to hang around for a while.

    Even if for no other reason to enjoy another record: high temperatures here that also have entered the record books.

    Wide variety of ways to avoid crowds

    Ways to offset crowds have never before offered more choices.

    This is mainly due to new technology that gives you more choices than ever.

    Old-style is a familiar one: staying in hotels or homes of friends or relatives.

    But in the past few years, as you know, more options have turned up.

    Staying with strangers, of course. And being driven around in other people’s cars and trucks.

    If you have not yet explored these options, this is a great time to consider them.

    They can offer huge cost savings.

    But they also offer insight into the lives of others.

    Alternative booking sites such as Airbnb have become obvious in recent years.

    One advantage is that they often don’t have to be booked well ahead of time such as Disney property restaurants or other crowded tourism options.

    You get an added bonus this time of year in advice from residents about maximizing your time here (in areas such as great restaurants that don’t have long waiting lists for dinner or for New Year’s Eve reservations, for examples).

    Or for attractions you might have missed or don’t know about.

    Locals offer valuable insights

    Our suggestion is that you regard locals as an important information source. Ask them questions.

    They are accustomed to visitors. They will answer.

    One such example was launched in 2008.

    Airbnb is the largest player in the growing home sharing niche. It’s also in general the most reliable.

    If you have not used it yourself, you know others who have.

    Couchsurfing you also probably know about.

    It is a community of 12 million members. It’s popularity has proven that it works well. And is another good option for you.

    Another popular option, and one we recommend in general, is renting a private home or apartment or spare room or even a condo.

    From being a rare option a decade ago, that relatively new choice has gotten so common that one in four US travelers took it in 2014, according to Phocuswright.

    Uber is the most obvious new car service arriving in recent years but there’s also Lyft or FlightCar, Turo, Getaround and others.

    We recommend considering all these options.

    Even home cooked meals are an option to consider, particularly in these crowded times for dining reservations.

    We remind you of several choices: Online platforms like PurpleDinner Meal Sharing, Bonappetour and EatWith. All viable and proven options for you to at least consider.

    Eating out is another adventure

    Meals are generally good, and the added incentive is getting to know locals.

    Any disadvantages to these types of options?


    You should investigate any offers, of course. But that is no different than choosing a hotel or renting an individual’s home.

    The same principles of “buyer beware” still apply.

    But as for the theme parks, here are a dozen practical suggestions during busy times:

    1. Yes, you have heard it before. But do plan your trip. It’s more important
      than other times because it’s simply more crowded. Actually, when you think about it, the more pre-planning you do, the better your chances of having a less stress-filled, minimally hassle-free vacation while you are here. You can’t plan for every eventuality but you can get your group’s opinion on priorities such as rides, where to eat, etc. Talk to them. And listen to what they say, of course.
    2. Know family limitations. These are most obvious with younger children who, presumably, do not share your total understanding of busy and congested park times. Plan for breaks in the action, even if you are dealing just with presumably the adult mentality. Whatever age they are, young or older, they also need to rest. This is not difficult but it does require some thought.
    3. Food matters. Yes, you always have to eat. So try not only to bring some of your preferred snacks (yes, you certainly have heard it before but it is a point worth emphasizing), but also plan what restaurants might appeal to your particular group. It is too late to make many advanced dining reservations, of course, so you will have to cope with crowds. Don’t wait till the last minute of starvation or the need for a bathroom break to start waiting in a restaurant line for lunch. That is one mistake easily avoided.
    4. Don’t forget that the old rules also apply. That includes buying tickets in advance. Arrive early (oddly enough, this piece of advice may apply to many other facets of life in general).
    5. Revise your expectations. You may normally look for your favorite rides first thing in the morning. You get in line early, after all, and expect to be rewarded. Human nature, perhaps, but not this time of year. Even early arrivals will have to wait. So get used to it. But you can get in at least one or maybe two highly popular rides without a hugely long line if you start early.
    6. Many guests love to park hop. Fine, most times of the year. But it’s a good idea now to give it up. For this season, at least. You don’t need more wait time, do you? But that is what will happen if you choose to take monorails or buses to get from park to park. Stick with your favorite area or park is good advice. For now, more than ever.
    7. If you can afford it, and as you know, not all on site hotels are luxury…this is the best time of the year to stay on Disney or other properties. Your front-of-line perks for on-site hotel occupancies are worth more right now than any other time. Being as close as possible to your main attractions is worth more money this crowded time of year.
    8. What many guests do to skip lines is a simple strategy. Avoid the rides and catch the parades, street shows, etc. That’s OK, and up to you if you prefer it. But keep in mind others have the same idea. So you will still have to cope with crowds.
    9. Attitude is all, of course. Don’t forget it (just look at the ride lines or the slow going as you enter the park entrance as reminders). So remember this is a vacation. Let the negatives go. Worry less. Have more fun. Enjoy the park with child-like enthusiasm. Not so hard if you really try, is it?
    10. This also applies year-round but be realistic with your budget. Theme parks are expensive. They may be an amazing vacation and well worth your time and money, but they cost a lot. This is even more the case now, with all the holiday offerings…souvenirs, even added restaurant costs at times attributed to the holidays. So figure that in your calculations. Don’t let it discourage or get you down.
    11. Be extra careful about where you stay. We say this because everything costs more this time of year. It is inevitable. So be prepared. And if you do find a bargain, be sure to enjoy it.
    12. New Year’s Eve. Some visitors choose to stay home. That’s understandable. And OK. You can watch it on television. But if you do go to the parks, arrive early (see No. 4 again). Say before 4 or 5 p.m. to get your spot. Bring along a book or your e-reader to pass the time. If you arrive much later, you may find it very hard to move around with the crowds. So get your restroom breaks and feeding done earlier than usual. It’s just part of being prepared for helping make the busiest times of the year also the most magical. ###