Ahhh… the joys of the holidays… good food, spending time with loved ones and making wonderful memories. Sounds, idyllic, right? Well, it should be. Travel during the holidays can be overwhelming, frustrating and cause undue stress with delays, overbooked flights and traffic. Be sure to keep the joy in joyful this holiday season with these travel trips designed to get you to your destination, stress-free.
1.) Avoid Peak Travel Times – At Christmas and New Year’s, the peak holiday travel dates change each year depending on which days the holidays fall. You can generally guess which dates will be the most expensive for travel (consider which travel days would allow you to maximize long weekends without taking too many days off work — and that’s probably when everyone will want to go). If you’re not sure, use a search engine that lets you put in flexible travel dates; these will show you which date combinations will give you the best deal.
2.) Don’t Limit Your Shopping to Just Gifts – Whether you’re using booking sites like Expedia or Kayak, comparison shopping has never been easier than it is right now. During holiday travel season, casting the net as wide as possible will help you understand all of your options.For many travelers, price isn’t the only or even the most important factor, especially during the holidays. Thoughtful, deliberate use of the “search adjacent days or airports” features found on many websites may also surrender greatly improved fares and travel times.
3.) Know Your Airports– Checking alternate airports is a pretty standard tactic, but during holiday travel it can really make a difference. At no time can the alternate airport gambit pay off better than during the holiday crush. You can score on almost every front — parking, rental cars, traffic to and from, nearby hotels — and save both time and money. Keep in mind that smaller airports see fewer flights and, typically, fewer delays — not a minor consideration during the busy holiday travel season.
4.) Plan Connections Carefully – When booking flights, check your search results carefully for sufficient time during layovers, and build in some time for flight delays and weather woes. Particularly during the winter months, peak travel times often bring peak travel delays, and your connection is more likely to be jeopardized. Avoiding really tight connections might save you a sprint through the terminal or a missed flight.
Also, it is best if you can muscle your flight path into position so that connections are in places less likely to experience delays — specifically, airports in warmer climates.
5.) Leave Early – During peak travel times, many delays are typically due to security check-in, from traffic jams and full parking lots to absent shuttles and long lines. Rather than striving to “arrive at the airport early,” you may want to try to “leave for the airport early” to anticipate all the peripheral delays you may encounter.
6.) Pack Efficiently – One pair of jeans or three? Choose wisely. Take a carry-on when possible to avoid fees, save time and eliminate the potential for lost luggage. Also, keep in mind when packing that most airlines are now charging travelers a fee for checking any bags on domestic flights (and even some international ones). Remember, most hotels provide laundry services and it’s just an added perk when staying with family!
7.) Take Advantage of Shortcuts – The latest self-service developments in online travel can be tremendous time-savers during peak travel times. Whenever possible, print your boarding passes at home or pull up your boarding pass on your smartphone.If you buy most of your gifts online, have them shipped directly to your destination. This will cut down on luggage and the risk of them getting lost.
8.) Travel Early or Late in the Day – As a rule, airports are least congested at times when normal human beings would rather be at home or even asleep. Delays are far less likely for morning flights, and airports usually unclog as the afternoon and evening peak passes.
9.) Packages are Not Just for Unwrapping – Peak travel periods can be the best time to buy package deals (such as air/hotel or air/hotel/car), even for folks who would normally never buy one, as the bundled pricing offered by packages can be very competitive.
10.) Keep Your Cool – Don’t lose your temper, even if things go wrong. Some delays – like those due to weather – are unavoidable. Bring books, portable devices, games, entertainment that doesn’t require a battery life for kids, snacks, your A-Game and a good attitude. And remember, you will eventually make it to your destination. Air travel is – literally – just a blip on the radar!
And, because everyone likes getting something extra for the holidays, here are a few bonus tips for holiday travel to help keep you feeling joyful all season long!
- Be prepared for more than the usual slowdowns at security. Even though the TSA’s liquid and gel rules have been around for many years now, folks who fly very rarely may not be familiar with all the ins and outs — and the newer full body scanners could catch even frequent travelers off guard.
- Gas up the night before you travel; no one leaves enough time for buying gas on the way to the airport.
- Investigate your frequent flier options to get better (and better guaranteed) seats.
- Have phone numbers for everything: your hotel, your car rental agency, your airline, friends at your destination.
- Choose nonstop flights. The worst, most brutal delays occur in connecting airports, where you have no home, friends or family to retreat to.
- Don’t over pack your checked luggage; overstuffed bags that must be opened for a security check are much harder to repack.
- Do not wrap gifts, especially if you intend to carry them on the plane. Even in checked baggage, there is a strong chance they will be unwrapped for inspection by security personnel. Consider gift bags instead of wrapping paper — you can easily remove the items from their bags if required, and you won’t have to do a last-minute wrapping job at your destination.
- Give your cell phone a full charge, and download your airline’s app so you’ll get alerts if your flight is delayed or your gate changes.
- If you’re leaving pets at home and you haven’t made kennel reservations, do so right away. Kennels and doggie daycare or boarding facilities book up fast. Didn’t get Fido’s reservation booked in time? Contact your local vet. They may offer more affordable boarding options since they don’t charge for luxury accommodations.This may be especially beneficial for older pets, who may need additional care or medical attention.
From all of us at Roper Insurance, we wish you a very happy and healthy holiday season!