Three Holiday Travel Myths You Can Debunk Now

Dangerous roads and wrapped gifts top the travel misunderstandings

Christmas ornaments at christmas market in Germany. Nuremberg, Bavaria, Germany
••• Malorny/Getty Images

Year after year, holiday travelers often believe numerous holiday travel safety myths that are passed down through anecdotes. Although these tales may have at one time held some truth, the actual holiday travel hazards can create even more problems - or potentially be fatal.

When making holiday travel plans, it is critical to separate fact from fiction. Here are three holiday travel myths you can debunk right now, allowing you to focus on more important tasks as you plan gatherings with friends and family.

Myth: New Year's Eve is the deadliest day on the roads

Fact: For years, travelers incorrectly believed that New Year's Eve was the most dangerous day to drive. In addition, media reports every year put special scrutiny on drunk driving at the end of the year.

While drunk driving is still a problem, increased focus on DUI checkpoints over New Year's Eve and the rise of "Tipsy Tow" programs for revelers has reduced the number of overall fatalities on December 31 every year.

Studies completed by AAA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show the most dangerous day for road travelers is December 23 – the day before Christmas. From a historical standpoint, December 23 sees record numbers of drivers, ultimately leading to more serious and fatal accidents on highways. For those planning to travel on the highways during the Christmas holiday season, experts recommend making plans before and after the holidays, and exercising extreme caution on the busiest travel days of the year.

What is the deadliest overall travel holiday? According to a report in Forbes, Thanksgiving Day is the deadliest for travelers, averaging over 500 fatalities per year between 1982 and 2008.

Myth: Holiday travelers are subject to more security screening

Fact: While the holidays provide a unique challenge to the Transportation Security Administration, travelers are not necessarily subject to any new screening.

Rather, because the number of travelers that will be swarming TSA checkpoints during the holiday season will increase, additional time and traveler errors create more problems, leading to additional screening for novice flyers.

For those planning to travel by air, the TSA recommends arriving at the airport with plenty of time to spare. Those who bring along a special holiday meals should be sure to understand how carry-on regulations may affect your travel plans. As a general rule, the TSA considers any food item that can be spread, spilled, sprayed, pumped, or poured, as a liquid or gel. These particular items will be subject to 3-1-1 liquid regulations.

Myth: You can't travel with wrapped presents

Fact: There is nothing quite like watching the surprise and excitement of delivering a present to its recipient this holiday season. As a result, many travelers may elect to pre-wrap their gifts prior to departure, with the innocent intention of bringing a surprise. While the TSA does not strictly forbid wrapped presents, they do caution that anything that looks suspicious is subject to additional screening.

Travelers are welcome to pre-wrap their gifts and pack them in either checked or carry-on luggage.

Gift that include excessive amount of liquids (like snow globes) should always go in checked luggage, while other gifts may be appropriate for carry-on luggage. However, if TSA agents are unable to determine what they are, those same gifts may be unwrapped and further investigated, creating a delay in travels and an additional inconvenience. If in doubt, wrap your gift at your destination, or have it shipped ahead of your travels.

By understanding where the real problems lie during your travel experience, you can make sure you make the most of your next adventure. Through preparation, travelers of all types can make sure they travel safe and secure this holiday season.