The holidays are just about the only time of the year it’s impossible to look forward to traveling, which is ironic given they’re also the only time of the year at which most of us get to travel. With everything going on in the world at present, the airport seems even more daunting than ever, and we can already see ourselves being more stressed out trying to get to vacation than we ever were trying to earn vacation. Here are a few things you can do, however, to minimize the chaos, nail-biting, and inevitable arguments with airport employees.
Airport security lines on major holidays are the stuff of nightmares. You can often check your airport’s website for security wait times to best prepare, but we generally suggest you leave for the airport at least an hour earlier than you normally would. You’ll also want to check-in early. If you check-in at the beginning of the 24-hour check-in period, you’ll have a better chance at getting the seat you want and are less likely to get bumped from the flight.
Subscribe To Alerts
Use an app that will alert you to any changes in your flight or itinerary. We like Tripit Pro because it keeps your itinerary organized in one place, alerts you to any flight changes or delays, and helps you book a new flight if necessary. You can also download your airline’s app for updates specific to your flight. Note: Here’s a little trick to try if your flight is cancelled and you’re having trouble getting through to your airline to re-book; use Skype to call the english-speaking overseas reservations number on the airline’s website instead of the domestic number, which is bound to be bogged down with incoming calls.
Travel When Other People Can’t
If your schedule is flexible, we suggest ditching town ahead of the rush, which is usually most intense the day before any given holiday. If you can’t beat the crowds, flight costs, security lines, and drive times are generally more manageable on actual holidays, so if you aren’t concerned about missing a few hours of festivities, your best bet may be to fly or drive to your destination on the day of.
Buy Travel Insurance
If you’re traveling to or from areas prone to extreme winter weather, it might be wise to purchase insurance that covers delays and cancellations. Try InsureMyTrip to source the best plan to protect your travels. Note: Avoid flying through Chicago if at all possible, as there are almost always weather delays and cancellations at ORD this time of year
Apply for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry
If you haven’t already applied for PreCheck or Global Entry, now is the time. Global Entry is only slightly more expensive than PreCheck and has all of the same benefits, but also allows you to fast-track your way through US customs if you’re traveling abroad.
Beware Of Baggage
If losing your luggage will ruin your trip, we suggest investing in Trakdot, which will keep tabs on your bags while you travel. Around the holidays, it’s important to remember that it might be best to wrap gifts once you reach your destination, as it’s possible they’ll be unwrapped as they go through security. As with any time you travel, keep your most valuable possessions - including meds and personal papers - with you in your carry-on. And of course, to avoid baggage-related headaches and delays, skip checking bags altogether whenever possible.
If your schedule is flexible and the holidays aren’t precious to you, consider vacationing after the holiday season has ended. Unless you live in New York City, you’ll be amazed at how peaceful and sleepy your hometown is during the holidays. Also, your post-holiday trip will be about a third of the price as your peak season trip and, because everyone was on vacation during the holidays and therefore so were you (albeit at home), this approach is basically like getting two vacations for less than the cost of one.