NEW YORK ( MainStreet) — I'm currently booking a flight and deciding on a window or aisle seat for next Wednesday. (A small joke there. We're flying United where it apparently costs extra to pick a seat now.) You see, my fiancée and I recently sat down to buy our tickets home for Thanksgiving, and, as everyone knows, going home for the holidays may be many things, but it certainly isn't cheap.

Tucked into the corner of every Norman Rockwell painting is someone weeping quietly over a credit card bill.

Still, the only thing worse than having to pay through the ear, nose and throat for a seat designed to inspire body image problems is doing so and then not even getting on the plane at all. Speaking anecdotally, three out of my last four flights had been oversold, leading to harassed gate clerks trying desperately to find someone (anyone) willing to give up his seats. On a recent trip from Boston to Chicago, they needed as many as twelve volunteers, because evidently it made sense to sell a full dozen seats beyond what they'd installed on the plane.

According to the Department of Transportation , over 120,000 people gave up their seats in the third quarter of this year. That may sound like an enormous number until you compare it to the 161,930,846 people who successfully got on their plane. Still, to put it in context, here's an idea of just how many passengers were left clutching grossly oversized carry-on bags and watching their flight from the airport bar .

It's a lot of people. So the question is, what to do this holiday season if you're one of them? It will certainly be at least some of us. According to Stephen Ebbett, president of the lifestyle insurance company Protect Your Bubble, nearly 25% of consumers say that they've had a flight delayed or canceled during the holiday season. It's a very real issue.

"We all hear stories anecdotally about travel delays and cancellations because of the weather and such, and we wanted to get a feel for how serious that was," Ebbett said. Unable to find meaningful data, the company ultimately decided to do its own survey and discovered that a quarter of all travelers face problems getting on their planes during the holiday season.

"We wanted to dig in a bit further, so we followed up with that audience with some more questions trying to get an understanding of what the issues were and what it was about," he said. "It was interesting to see that there seemed to be more delays than final cancellations... We found that 40% [of travelers] had to wait at the airport for another flight for more than four hours. 11% have had a situation so severe, and such a desire to get to their destination, that they had to rent a car."