Tips to Help You and Your Family Survive the Hectic Holiday Travel Season
Traveling can be stressful even in the best of times, but can be brutal during the holidays
Christmas is right around the corner, and so is the travel that comes with it. Whether or not you're thrilled about the prospect of traveling during the holiday season, there are some things you can do to make your travel less of a headache. Before you get in the car or arrive at the airport, check out these tips.
Regardless of whether you're trying to get a seat on a flight or a decent hotel room, you need to book early in order to ensure you get what you want. You're not the only one making travel plans, so it's time to book if you haven't made your arrangements yet. Hotels get booked quickly at this time of year, and flights get more expensive the closer you get to your desired travel dates.
When flying, travel on a holiday
You can save a lot of money if you fly on a holiday as opposed to the day before or the day after. While it may not be convenient, it's definitely much cheaper and much less chaotic at the airports. If you get an early flight, you can reach your destination with plenty of time. If arriving at your destination on a holiday isn't an option, fly back home on the holiday.
Take the first flight of the day to minimize delays
Anyone who has flown more than a few times knows that a small delay in one part of the country can turn into a big hassle for the rest of the country. If your schedule isn't flexible or if you anticipate delays, get the first flight of the day. Baring any major unforeseen circumstances, the first flight of the day is nearly always on-time. In the event of weather delays, the earliest flights of the day are much less likely to be cancelled altogether, which leaves you scrambling to find alternative arrangements.
Avoid Airline Counters
Whenever there is a delay, most travelers make a beeline for the airline counter to get rebooked or to get additional information. This can end up delaying you more, especially if a lot of flights are delayed and everyone is crowded around.
Your best bet is to call the customer service number for the airline. There are a lot more agents ready to answer the phone and they may be able to help you more quickly. You could end up waiting 30-60 minutes at the counter depending upon the amount of people, but an agent on the phone may be able to get you on a flight that's about to depart that you would otherwise miss if you had to wait. When dealing with an agent via phone, you can start the conversation from anywhere, including the plane.
Airline apps are getting more advanced, so check your reservation there. You can probably get the same options that an agent can give you, but at the swipe of a finger.
Buy an inexpensive battery pack
One of the more frustrating parts of traveling can be losing the juice on your smartphone and having nowhere to plug in. But this can be avoided with the purchase of an inexpensive and reliable battery pack. Many decent ones cost up to $30 and can completely charge a smartphone up to seven times.
Check out your driving route before you hit the road
Most people hit the road without taking a look at travel conditions. Download a navigation app to your smartphone, such as Google Maps or Waze, which both offer real-time traffic alerts. Check out your route using one of these apps before hitting the road to spot any potential problem areas. Even if you know where you're going, it's a good idea to have navigation enabled. In the event a sudden slow down occurs, the app will alert you and offer rerouting options.
Most road projects are suspended during the peak holiday travel days, but it's a good idea to check out the North Carolina Department of Transportation's website, as well as those for other states, to see if there are any closures or active construction projects on your desired route.
Expect the unexpected
Take some time to do some research on hotels or alternative travel options well before you travel. You'll be more prepared in case your flight is delayed or cancelled or if unexpected road conditions delay you significantly. If using only a carry-on bag isn't an option, pack your essentials (medication, glasses, chargers, etc.) and a change of clothes in a carry-on bag in case your luggage is lost or delayed.
Ship Gifts Instead of Bringing them
Ship gifts ahead of time instead of time rather than taking up valuable space in the car or dragging them to the airport. UPS, FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service offer package insurance, delivery guarantees and tracking services. Gifts that are brought to the airport already wrapped will likely get unwrapped by airport security personnel. The cost of shipping a single box with multiple gifts will probably cost the same or less than the added fees charged by airlines for additional baggage.
No one wants to be hungry!
When we travel in the car, we typically make sure to have enough drinks and snacks to last through the end of the trip. But many people don't pack snacks when heading to the airport. Being stressed and hungry can make us extra cranky, so having a snack handy is helpful. If you don't want to pack your own snacks, expect to pay a lot more money for snacks at the airport.
While liquids cannot be taken through airport security, most solid foods can pass through easily. Check out the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) website for a current list of which foods can be taken through safely. You can always take an empty bottle (must be uncapped going through security) to fill up with water after you are screened. If you don't like plain water, take some individual drink mix packets to add some flavor.
Don't be a Grinch
It's easy to become stressed when traveling, and even easier for this to happen during holiday travel. This stress can quickly get misdirected at another driver or an airport employee, which can make your day even worse. So, keep negative energy away. Ignore the temptation to get into a road battle and don't lash out at anyone at the airport or on the plane. Smile and be merry and you will find that everything works out fine, even when something happens that is outside your control.
Consider alternate means of travel
Depending upon your destination, the train or bus could be more a better bet. Even if it ends up costing a little more, taking the train or bus means that you don't have to drive and airport delays and layovers aren't really an issue.