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Everything You Need To Know About Holiday Travel Stress

This time of year, Airports are clogged, traffic is a nightmare, and rates for everything increase dramatically. Add to that the recent threat of terrorism around the globe, and the idea of a vacation can seem almost overwhelming. We're here to help.
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Businessmen watching airplanes on tarmac in airport
Businessmen watching airplanes on tarmac in airport

We here at Yahoo Travel believe in the transformative power of exploring the world. It alleviates stress, helps people form new bonds, and opens our minds to other cultures.

And yet, many people -- too many, in our opinion -- dread traveling, especially around the holidays, when this joyous season takes on a much more stressful tone. Airports are clogged, traffic is a nightmare, and rates for everything increase dramatically. Add to that the recent threat of terrorism around the globe, and the idea of a vacation can seem almost overwhelming.

We're here to help. Starting this week, Yahoo Travel is launching #StressFreeTravel, a new initiative dedicated to making travel better in every way possible.

To kick it all off, we are revealing exclusive research examining how people travel this time of year. We talked to more than 2,700 people to see what it is about holiday travel that causes you stress and how you handle it.

Some of the results are surprising. Would you use drugs to help keep your kids calm? You won't believe how many travelers say they would. It's also telling to see the techniques travelers use to cut back on anxiety, from prayer to sex. And how many people would rather stay home during the holidays.

You can see all of our results right here.

One of the things we wanted to know was how people deal with holiday travel stress. We assumed hot toddies, but were proven quite wrong.

Related: The Secret Weapon for Beating Holiday Stress

Never underestimate the power of prayer, especially during times of severe holiday stress.

The survey found that prayer is a leading de-stressor for many Americans. According to our finding, women are more likely than men to use prayer as a way to alleviate the stress caused by traveling during the holidays.

In fact 28% of women, compared with 20% of men surveyed said that they turned to prayer when traveling gets stressful. Prayer even trumped other stress relievers like alcohol (20%), playing games on a smart phone (24%), meditating (10%), taking pills (7%) and having a romantic evening with one's spouse (17%).

Women are also significantly more likely than men to deal with holiday stress by reading. 36% of women said they would tune out stressors with a book compared to only 25% of men.

Finding ways to tune out is important when dealing with the hectic holiday travel season. Yet, only 1 in 4 people surveyed said they plan on drinking to take the edge off, and just under 1 in 10 planned on taking pills.

Individuals with higher education levels (post-graduate) were actually more likely to drink to take the edge off of holiday stress (32%) than people without a college education (15%).

Contrary to popular belief, having a spouse may actually make you less likely to drink to deal with holiday stress. More single people (27%) said they were likely to use alcohol as a crutch this holiday season, than married folks (19%).

And as if couples don't have enough sources of tension over the holidays - in-laws, child tantrums, crowded airports, last-minute shopping - try this on for size: the gender gap is very real when it comes to who's more willing to take a Christmas vacation from sex.

According to the survey, women are much more willing than men to give up sex for a stress-free holiday, and women are far less comfortable doing the mattress mambo in the homes of their family and friends this holiday season.

Silent night, indeed.


Related: 5 Stress-busting Exercises You Can Absolutely Do Anywhere

Few places are more stressful during the holidays than an airplane. That's why we wanted to find out what other people do on planes that makes the experience so horrible.

According to the results, the biggest faux pas other passengers commit is being stinky. That's right, 82 percent of survey respondents said that sitting on a plane next to someone with foul body odor is enough to put them in a foul mood.

If smell isn't an issue, then space definitely is. Eighty-one percent of people said the most aggravating part of flying is other passengers not respecting their personal space. We can all relate to sitting next to the guy who bogarts the armrest. C'mon, buddy, how big is your elbow?!

Not only is it annoying, but we predict it's one of the reasons people keep getting in fights on planes.

Rounding out the top three is an annoyance that seems to be on the rise. According to 77 percent of respondents, a passenger playing music loudly is enough to make them feel like a scrooge. Even with headphones, many people crank the volume up so high that you can hear what they're listening to. Sure, we all want to listen to Adele's new album -- but on our own terms.

Related: Airlines, Apps and Hotels That Actually Make Travel Less Stressful

While they weren't leading causes, the survey also pointed at passengers getting drunk, talking too loudly, and picking their noses as annoying behavior. As one might expect, crying babies also made the list.

Related: How to Make Nice With Your Fellow Passengers When Your Kid is Going Insane

74 percent of respondents cited "screaming children" as a top annoyance when flying.

It isn't just the childless folks on planes who find kids annoying. Parents are stressed too.

One in five parents surveyed found traveling with their own children "difficult," with one in 10 wished they could sit apart from their kids. People surveyed said they would rather sit next to someone taking up their personal space (42 percent) rather than a screaming child (37 percent). If you're stuck in that situation, it may be worth politely asking a flight attendant for a seat change (for yourself, as they probably won't be willing to stick that howling baby in the galley, unfortunately).

So what to do if you're stuck next to that noisy kid? Of parents surveyed, 59 percent dealt with the issue with "electronics."

Related: How to Stop a Baby From Crying on a Plane

If Dora doesn't work, there's always drugs. Nearly one in five survey respondents (17 percent) admitted they'd be willing to drug their kids if it'd make them go to sleep. Millennials lead the dosage pack with a 24 percent willingness to dope up the screamers.

Snacking is another popular method the surveyed parents cited as a way to manage a cranky child. Nearly half (49 percent) of parents say they supply their kids with food to keep them occupied, as it's hard to holler when your teeth are stuck together with a fruit roll-up.

This story is part of a new Yahoo Travel series, #StressFreeTravel, dedicated to making travel better in every way possible.

How do you deal with holiday stress? We want to hear from you. Talk to us in the comments or tweet us @YahooTravel.