Holiday trips can be wonderful experiences that make the season special. Or, they can fall short, leaving you with less-than-stellar memories and a need for serious therapy. Careful planning can eliminate or minimize travel difficulties and help ensure a happy holiday for you and your family.
Traveling on peak days almost ensures that you will encounter difficulties. The day before Thanksgiving is a miserable time to fly or drive anywhere. Crowded airports and congested roads greatly up your odds of experiencing some sort of mishap, including delayed flights and fender benders. Use up some vacation days and go early or convince your family to delay their celebration.
Whether you choose a plane, train or automobile, your holiday travels will be less stressful if you pack light. Use a carry on bag and leave some outfit changes behind. Your flight will be much easier if you can avoid the baggage claim area, and your car trip will be more comfortable if the passengers have plenty of room. Train travel also benefits from bringing carry-on luggage alone. You don't want to be stuck searching for your bags at the train station. In all instances, do not bring gifts with you. Either stick to gift cards or ship the presents separately.
If you are driving anywhere during the holidays, including to the airport, keep your car fueled up. You do not want to stop for gas as you begin your journey. Chances are you will end up stuck in a line that will waste precious time. You may also have to corral family members who couldn't resist buying a slushy and a lottery ticket. Gas prices tend to rise around the holidays as well, so try to get a full tank at the lowest possible price a day or two before leaving. Every dollar counts when you are traveling.
During this festive season, leaving early does not mean setting the alarm at 6:30 am instead of 7:00. Traffic is usually crazy for weeks before Christmas, and you can easily be trapped in a traffic jam for an hour or more. You might also experience car issues or other minor disasters. Give yourself at least an extra hour when leaving on your trip. You may have to kill time at the airport or the station, but that's a small price to pay for the stress reduction you will enjoy.
The main airport in your area is going to be the busiest airport. The same applies to your destination airport. Consider using alternate airports to avoid travel congestion and delays. You may also find that the flight deals are cheaper as well as the rental cars and transfers.
If possible, finalize your paperwork online. You can save significant time by buying e-tickets and printing out your boarding pass at home. Alternatively, you may choose to pull up your boarding pass on your smartphone. Have everything ready before you hit the airport, and you will avoid long lines and last-minute document panic.
Holiday travel is never seamless, but you can reduce the stress and difficulties by planning ahead and following a few easy tips. Remember to take time during your travels to unwind a bit, even if it means stopping for post-flight waffles. You and your travel companions will need a few moments to just breathe.