Holiday Travel Tips for Travelers Who Know it All
Let's face it, traveling during the holidays sucks. Flights are more expensive, hotels are booked up, traffic is congested, airport security lines are out of control, holiday attractions are unpleasantly crowded, and snowstorms risk postponing or cancelling your trip. Should you cancel your trip? Of course not! But even we frequent travelers get caught in the shuffle and slip up during the holiday season. Here are a few tips that should make your holiday travel more pleasant.
#1 Use Travel Apps
More and more travel apps are coming on the market to help make traveling easier and cheaper. AirBnB and Roatrippers both have mobile apps and you can use Hotel Tonight to find cheap hotels. Whatever your favorite airline is, they have an app that makes it easy to check in, download and save boarding passes, and make changes to your existing flight. GateGuru gives you approximate wait times in security lines and BringFido is a tool to help dog lovers plan pet-friendly trips. Planning a road trip? Find cheap gas and clean bathrooms using GasBuddy and Sit or Squat.
#2 Pack Light
As more and more people are cramming their belongings into carry-on luggage, overhead bins are so crowded that you risk having to check your bags at the gate. Worse yet, you run the risk of your luggage not fitting on the plane at all and having it sent on a later flight, which happened to me on a trip from Taiwan. If your flight is canceled, it simplifies scoring a seat on another flight.
#3 Enjoy the Airport
Airports are much more than busy transit hubs to rush through. Many double as amenity-filled malls, some boasting spas, art exhibitions, shops, restaurants, and yoga rooms. Singapore's Changi Airport has a slide, movie theater, pool, 350+ shops, and several gardens! Arriving early before a flight allows you to be more relaxed and lets you enjoy a glass of wine or get a massage. Pre-book your parking spot and take a shuttle to the terminal to save even more time and print your boarding pass at home or at the airport kiosk to avoid crowded airline ticket counters.
#4 Don't Pack Gifts
Purchasing gifts online and having them shipped to your final destination saves time and frees up valuable real estate in your luggage! If you're able to arrive a day or two early to your destination, consider purchasing gifts there or having a friend/family member pick them up. I often have my sister pick up gifts for her kids, which I then reimburse her for. If you must pack gifts, keep them small and don't wrap them, as airline security may unwrap them to inspect them.
#5 Consider AirBnB
Whether you're trying to avoid staying with annoying family members or you're just trying to save a buck on hotels, consider booking an AirBnB. Use my promo code and get $40 travel credit! AirBnB offers rooms and entire apartments and homes to fit every budget and their phone app makes it easy to book a place at the last minute. The app connects you with hosts in over 191 countries and 34,000 cities and even includes castles! It's great for solo travelers, small groups, and families! Want to make some extra money? You can list your own home on Airbnb and earn up to a $75 credit!.
#6 Have a Back-up Plan
Being from the Midwest means that I've had more than a couple flights delayed or cancelled due to holiday storms. Chicago is one of my favorite cities but snow delays at O'Hare airport mean delays across the country. As soon as you learn there may be bad weather, call your airline and ask to be booked on an earlier flight, even if it means switching to a nearby airport or adding in a connection. If all flights to O'Hare are booked, perhaps your airline can get you to nearby Chicago Midway or to Milwaukee's General Mitchell, which offers frequent 90-minute bus trips directly between the two airports.
#7 Avoid Traffic Delays
Holiday traffic likely can't be entirely avoided but it can be minimized. See if there is a more scenic drive that may be longer but less stressful. If the drive gets too long, break it up by finding a few places to stop along the way that can also be part of the fun. Roadtrippers allows you to input your starting and final destinations and will suggest fun and interesting activities and locations along the way. Plan your route ahead of time and travel with a GPS system, smart phone or old-school maps in case you need a Plan B. Bring along an E-ZPass and change to save time at the tolls.
Want to skip the driving hassle entirely? Consider taking a bus or train so you can relax and listen to a podcast or read a book while someone else handles the driving.
#8 Allow Extra Time
Depart from home much earlier than you would at any other time of year, whether you're embarking on a road trip or heading to the airport or bus station. Icy roads, congested streets and long security lines could mean you miss your flight/bus/train if you don't allow for it. Leave early, and read or listen to music while you wait for your plane or train.
#9 Bring Provisions
Even if you follow every single tip listed, you're still likely to find yourself bored or anxious so pack snacks, games, books, magazines, music, and other diversions to pass the time if you are stuck in traffic or if your flight is delayed. Be sure that all your electronics are fully charged before leaving the house. This is especially important if you're traveling with kids!
#10 Stay Healthy
The last thing you want to be is sick while traveling. Start by getting a good night’s sleep a few days before your flight, so that even if you’re up late the night before, you’re still generally rested. Lack of sleep can also make you more susceptible to getting sick from crowds of travelers. Be sure to carry hand sanitizer, and consider taking Vitamin C or immunity-boosting supplements like Airborne or Echinacea a few days before your trip (with your doctor's approval). If all else fails, troubleshoot common health issues while traveling.