Helpful Tips Designed to Help You and Your Family Survive the Hectic Holiday Travel Season
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Helpful Tips Designed to Help You and Your Family Survive the Hectic Holiday Travel Season

Traveling can be stressful even in the best of times, but it can be especially demanding during the busy holiday travel season

November 8, 2019

Thanksgiving and Christmas are both right around the corner, which means the busy holiday travel season is also right around the corner. But don't worry too much. Whether or not you're thrilled about the prospect of traveling during the holiday season, there are some things you can do to make traveling less of a headache. So before you get in the car or arrive at the airport, check out these tips.

Book flights and hotels Early

Regardless of whether you're trying to get a seat on a flight or find a decent hotel room, you need to book early in order to ensure you get what you want. If not, you'll find yourself taking the last of what's available, if there even is something available. You're not the only one making travel plans, after all. 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 significantly more expensive the closer you get to your desired travel dates.

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 to spare and save a lot of money in the process. If arriving at your destination on a holiday isn't an option, fly back home on the holiday. The same goes for driving. Driving on a holiday, especially early in the day, is not often that chaotic.

Take the first flight of the day to minimize delays

Anyone who has flown more than once or twice knows that a small delay in one part of the country or even a single airport can turn into a major hassle for the rest of the country. If your schedule isn't flexible or if you anticipate delays, get the very first flight of the day. Barring any major unforeseen circumstances, the first flight of the day is nearly always on-time and sometimes early. In the event of weather delays, the earliest flights of the day are much less likely to be cancelled altogether, which could leave you scrambling to find alternative arrangements when alternative arrangements might not be available. And when you are booked on the first flight that happens to get delayed or cancelled, you stand a much better chance of getting to your destination on time.

Get to the airport early

Most travelers know to get to the airport a little early in order to have ample time to make your flight. Some people, though, have a habit of arriving at the airport with minutes to spare. That's not how you want to do it during the busiest travel season of the year. Regardless of whether you're someone who gets to the airport at the last minute or with plenty of time to spare, you'll want to leave even earlier to build yourself an extra cushion of time just in case something unexpected happens.

airport layovers can cost you

Adding a layover to your travel plans usually means that the overall cost of your ticket will go down. But layovers during the busiest travel time of the year can possibly set you back. Layovers give you another chance for things to go wrong, and a delay could end up setting you back a lot of time or even leave you stuck at the airport. If you have the option for a direct flight, consider it. If you must have a layover, opt for a layover with plenty of time between flights so you aren't rushing through a crowded airport to get to the next gate.

Avoid Airline Counters

Whenever there is a delay, most travelers make a beeline for the airline counter to get rebooked, to get additional information, and to complain. This can end up delaying you more, especially if a lot of flights are delayed and everyone is crowded around a counter with only one or two employees.

If you need to speak to someone, your best bet is to call the customer service number for the airline. There are a lot more employees ready to answer the phone than could ever be at the airline counter and they are usually able to help you more quickly. You could end up waiting thirty minutes to more than an hour at the counter depending upon the amount of people, but an employee 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 employee 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 phone and having nowhere to plug in, especially in older airports of airports that are crowded because of delays. But this can be avoided with the purchase of an inexpensive and reliable battery pack, which you can recharge on your trip whenever you have access to an outlet. Many decent battery packs cost up to $30 and can completely charge a smartphone up to seven times. Remember to pack it only in your carry-on luggage.

Check out your route before you hit the road

Most people hit the road without taking a second 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 shortly 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, especially if you have a very long drive that can have unexpected delays. In the event a sudden slow down occurs on your route, the app should alert you and offer rerouting options automatically.

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.

Download Map App Maps before leaving

When you use a navigation app on your phone, you usually download the maps you see as you drive or load them from cache. But this can pose a big problem if you find yourself in a sudden slowdown with nowhere to go. When you are stuck in a traffic slowdown, you're competing for cell phone towers with hundreds or thousands of other phones and devices, which means that your phone might be slow to find you another route or might not load anything at all until the data (and traffic) congestion clears. So if your app has the ability to save maps offline, like Google Maps currently offers, you should download a map of your route and nearby areas before you leave in case anything happens.

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. You can even wrap them once you get to your destination.

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 a little better, even when something happens that is outside your control.

Consider alternate means of travel

Depending upon your destination, the train or bus could be 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 yourself. And the delays and layovers you get from traveling by air aren't really an issue when you're on a train.