Tips for traveling during the holidays

December 14, 2015 Spencer Cox

PeopleAtAirport1When one hears the phrase “the holidays,” a plethora of nostalgic imagery may spring to mind: crackling fires, stuffed turkeys, over-stuffed stockings, children happily opening brightly-wrapped packages or the stillness of a fresh snow on a crisp, winter morning. However, if you are traveling during the holidays, the following, less-enchanting thoughts are likely riding the coattails of those happy visions:  packed airports, delayed flights, icy roads and bumper-to-bumper traffic. As dismaying as these grim prospects may seem, a well-prepared traveler may be able to avoid some of the headaches often associated with traveling during the most wonderful time of the year. Take a Christmas gander (see what I did there?) at our holiday travel tips:

Tip #1 – Plan ahead

If you’re reading this at the time of posting, you’d better act quickly on this one! It may seem like common sense, but being prepared for travel is one of the biggest boons available to assist in stress-free (or, at the very least, stress-light) holiday voyaging. While it may sometimes be possible to purchase your plane tickets at the last minute and fly out on the day of the actual holiday, locking down your tickets 2-3 weeks in advance is worth the relief of knowing your itinerary well ahead of time. Besides, trying to get a stellar deal on airfare during peak travel dates—especially major holidays­—can be an exercise in futility. Try to purchase tickets for earlier morning flights, if possible; if your flight is delayed or canceled, you may still be able to catch another, later flight on the original day you planned.

Tip #2 – Make a list, check it twice

For some, creating lists is a hobby—for others, it can be a nuisance.  Regardless of which camp you belong to, there is no denying that a list can help you stay organized, especially when traveling. For example, when you’re standing in line at the airport, shoes in hand, would you rather:

A)     Wonder absently if you remembered to turn on the automatic pet feeder

B)     Call your neighbor and walk him through the process of breaking into your house (and possibly the overly-complex procedure of setting the clock on the pet feeder if he refuses to break in multiple times while you’re gone)

C)     Pull out your list and see a comforting checkmark next to “Set feeder for Ms. Kitty”

Smartphones can be especially handy for creating lists, since you most likely won’t forget to bring your phone on the trip. In addition, most airlines now allow you to present your boarding pass via your smartphone. Two birds with one stone!

Tip #3 – Consider a smaller airport

You’ve traveled before, and you like to use the large, metropolitan airport in your area because it affords you the convenience of booking a flight around your trip schedule. One problem—everyone else does the same thing. During peak travel dates, large airports are some of the busiest places on Earth, and dealing with masses of humanity may not contribute to your effort in having a less-stressful trip. Consider trying smaller or alternate airports if they are relatively convenient to you. If you do end up using a large airport, use airline competition to your advantage by reviewing all available flights in order to find the best deal you can.

Tip #4 – Pack smart

When you pack your suitcase and carry-on before leaving the house, it’s best to keep everyone’s favorite three-letter acronym in mind:  no, not NFL (sorry)—TSA (it IS your favorite, right?). The Transportation Security Administration’s regulations regarding gels and liquids can slow even the most savvy traveler down as they pass through those final security checks before boarding. According to TSA rules, you are allowed to bring one quart-sized bag of liquid, aerosol, gel, cream, or paste containers through the checkpoint. Each container must hold no more than 3.4 ounces; any larger containers must be stowed in your checked luggage, excepting medications and infant/child nourishments.


While the TSA suggests packing these items separate from your other carry-on items in order to facilitate a speeder screening process, keep in mind that some airlines may charge fees for carry-on luggage in addition to checked luggage. Therefore, the cheapest ticket may not always be the best available deal if it means paying extra to bring your belongings. Check airline websites or take a look at our Guide to Airline Baggage Fees prior to booking to peruse their luggage policies in order to get the best deal.

Tip #5 – Shipping Santa

While your seven-year-old nephew might be very excited to see you this holiday season, it is likely that he is equally (more?) excited to unwrap the present he knows you will be bringing. If you know your flight schedule is going to be cutting it close, you may consider shipping your gifts to your destination ahead of time. Not only will this save you the hassle of having to re-wrap a gift (if, for example, airport security needs a closer look at the Apple Watch you bought Aunt Tilly to ensure it’s not a potential threat), it will ensure that your presents will arrive before your… presence.

Tip #6 – Breathe

Even if you follow these tips to a T, traveling during the holiday season will most likely test your resolve. The best thing to do is to embrace the holiday spirit—display warmth, caring, and especially patience. Try to remember that everyone you encounter at the crammed airport or on the packed street is in the same boat as you—they are trying to get to their loved ones for the holidays. Afford them the same considerations you expect to receive. As previously mentioned by Travel and Transport’s Nancy Rissky on this blog, behavior breeds behavior.  Also, prepare in whatever way you can for idle time, of which there is likely to be a large amount– especially at the airport. Load up your smartphone with those new albums you’ve been wanting to listen to, or your tablet with the books you’ve been trying to find the time to read. The holiday season is about spreading joy and good cheer—try to keep that in mind when the TSA agent asks you to take off your shoes again. Relax; breathe. You’ve got this.

What tips do you have for traveling during the holidays? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @TandTNews.

The post Tips for traveling during the holidays appeared first on Travel and Transport.

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