I just got back from a quick weekend in Chicago and knew the airport was going to be more hectic than usual due to winter weather and holiday travelers.
Wherever you’re heading, if you’re traveling during the holiday season, you need to realize that everyone else in the world is too. But don’t let invasive security scanners, terrible drivers and long lines at airports get you down. Here are my favorite tips to help you survive your holiday travels.
Ship gifts or give gift cards.
I’ll be traveling back to California to spend time with my family for the holidays and you better believe that all presents will be ordered through Amazon and shipped directly to my parents house. I couldn’t imagine going through security with all their gifts!
TSA suggests to ship wrapped gifts or wait until you reach your destination to wrap them, as they might have to unwrap a present to inspect it. Ship gifts ahead of time or bring the gift that can’t go wrong: gift cards to their favorite store or an Amazon card. Side note, does anyone else feel like having an Amazon Prime membership is dangerous? Sometimes when I’m shopping on Amazon, I don’t feel like I’m spending real money… trouble. Anyway…
Travel on off-peak days.
The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the biggest travel day of the year and can also cause you the biggest meltdown of the year. A better option is to leave early on Thanksgiving Day and avoid the record traffic the night before. Same goes with flying: if you fly on the actual holiday itself you’ll be avoiding the long lines and hoards of travelers.
Flight statistics show that planes traveling earlier in the day have a better on-time performance. Best time to hit the road? When every one else is asleep — early morning or late at night
Do your research.
Plan alternative trips if traffic makes your way home too overwhelming. Is there a scenic drive that might be longer but have less traffic? Break up a long drive by finding a few places to stop that will get the kids more excited than a truck rest stop. When flying, make sure you check the airline’s restrictions ahead of time on carry-on luggage and fees for checked bags.
Stock up on the latest travel apps before you leave home. Here are a few of my favorite travel apps: Flight Status gives you real-time updates on delays, baggage numbers and more, and GateGuru gives you approximate times you’ll spend in security. Heading out on the road? Find the cheapest gas and cleanest bathrooms on the road with GasBuddy and SitOrSquat.
Regardless of where I’m going, I try to avoid checking bags altogether if I can. You won’t have to wait for your luggage on the conveyor belt, and you won’t have to worry about your mom’s Christmas present getting lost at LAX. If you do check luggage, make sure you have all your medications and important documents and a change of clothes in your carry-on in case your luggage gets lost.
Short of doing yoga in the airport, the best way to mentally escape your stressful surroundings is to turn the volume down. And the easiest way to do that is with earplugs. Crying baby next seat over on the plane? Earplugs. Sister’s music in the car driving you insane? Earplugs. And if you really want to check out for a bit? Bring an eye mask (as long as you aren’t driving).
Don’t get hangry.
When your tummy growls, your mind can’t think straight, and you could unknowingly get in the wrong line, take the wrong turn, or worse, upset an innocent flight attendant. Pack snacks and drinks, so you and your family will be fueled up for a road trip. If you’re flying, definitely get some grub before you board the plane (check our GateGuru’s Best Airport Restaurants), so you won’t have to rely on airline food if you’re sitting on the tarmac for hours.
Plan for the unexpected.
Have only a half hour before connecting to another flight? Traveling to Rochester, NY, during snow season? Think ahead and plan accordingly. Leave extra time before flights to deal with security, extra time between connections and, for road trips, pack tire chains for snowy conditions, flashlights, and of course, a few band-aids never hurt either.
The overly friendly person next to you on the plane, the cancelled flights, the luggage that fell off in the middle of the highway? All of it will make for great stories over dinner when you finally make it to your destination. After all, holiday travel stress is just as much of a tradition as pumpkin pie and re-gifting.