Holiday travel doesn’t have to be stressful. Just check out our 26 tips for anyone flying during the holiday season.
1. Ship gifts, don’t pack them. Packing gifts in your luggage often forces you to check bags at the airport and also takes up valuable suitcase space. Skip the hassle and ship presents ahead of time so they’ll be there when you arrive.
2. If you have to pack gifts, pack well. Use plenty of padding (such as bubble wrap, towels or sweaters) to protect presents from rough handling. Also make sure they fit snugly in your suitcase without room to move around.
3. Don’t wrap gifts. Wait until you arrive to wrap presents. Security will likely need to unwrap the gifts to inspect them.
4. Charge all your devices before you leave. Before leaving the house, make sure your phone and other electronics have a full charge. You may have to turn them on at security, and you’ll want to be able to communicate with friends and family to coordinate airport pick ups and drop offs.
5. Arrive extra early. While it’s always a good idea to arrive a couple of hours before your flight, it pays to arrive extra early during the holiday season. Airports are at their most crowded, so give yourself plenty of time to check in and get through security.
6. Check in online. Most airlines let you check in on their website or on your smart phone. Take advantage of this to skip the check-in lines at the airport.
7. Check in early. Since cancellations are normal, airlines often overbook flights. Unfortunately, this can mean people get bumped from a flight when everyone actually shows up. Check in as early as possible (some airlines allow you to check in 24 hours in advance on their websites) to secure your seat.
8. Stick to a carry-on bag. Save time at the airport by sticking to a carry-on bag. You’ll skip the line to check a bag and also won’t have to wait at the baggage carousel.
9. Wear your heavier clothing. If you’re packing an overcoat or heavy sweater for your trip, try to wear these rather than packing them to save space in your suitcase.
10. Leave room in your suitcase. Chances are you’ll be heading home with gifts from your trip, so plan ahead and leave yourself some room for your goodies.
11. Use travel apps. Airline apps on your smartphone let you easily access up-to-date flight information, so you’ll know about delays ahead of time. Apps like GateGuru give you gate information, security wait times and in-terminal dining options, too.
12. Bring non-electronic entertainment for possible delays at the airport. Travel delays are common during the holiday season, which means you and the other hundreds of people on your flight will be facing off for the very limited number of power outlets at the gate. If your smartphone or laptop dies and you can’t recharge it, you’ll be glad you brought a book or a few Sudoku puzzles to keep you entertained.
13. Don’t forget the headphones or earplugs. There’s a good chance you’ll want to drown out the noise that comes with the holiday travel season, whether it’s in the terminal or on the plane. Stash headphones and earplugs in your carry-on.
14. Pack a snack. Long lines at airport restaurants and shops means you could be waiting a long time to grab some grub. Pack your own snacks to get you through layovers, delays and the flight. Plus, it’s typically cheaper than buying food at the airport.
15. Book non-stop flights. Don’t let your layover turn into a travel delay. Avoid the possibility altogether by booking a non-stop flight if possible.
16. Or, book a long layover. If you can’t book a non-stop flight, book a connecting flight with a long layover. This gives you time to get through the airport and deal with any unexpected travel delays.
17. Keep calm. Airline representatives will assist you as best they can, even if it takes longer than you think it should. Just remember getting angry won’t help the situation.
18. Book an early or late flight. Your best bet for avoiding crowds during the holiday season is to fly extra early or late. Red eyes in particular might be your best bet for a smooth flying experience.
19. Speak up. If you find yourself stuck due to a significant travel delay, speak with the airline representative early on to find out what your options are for re-booking or for hotel or dining vouchers. The sooner you can talk to them, the better your chances of snagging any available seat on another flight.
20. Call the airline. In the event of a travel delay, don’t join the crowds at the airline counter. Instead, call the airline directly for faster service.
21. Keep numbers handy. Have the numbers for your airline, hotel, car rental company and other travel vendors handy so you can call quickly in case of an issue.
22. Keep all the essentials with you. Anything you need to be accessible (such as medication) should be in your carry-on. Don’t put these in your checked bags because a delay could mean you won’t have access to these items for longer than expected.
23. Have someone drive you to the airport. Don’t deal with the stress of trying to park in a crowded lot. Either have a friend drive you or arrange for public transportation.
24. Get your seat assigned in advance. This is especially important if you’re traveling with the family. Get your seats assigned in advance so you’re not split up on the flight.
25. Bring a travel pillow. This will come in handy on the flight; and in the event your flight is delayed or cancelled, you’ll be a little bit more comfortable while waiting at the gate.
26. Keep a positive attitude. Eventually, it will work out. Maintain a smile, make friends with other travelers and trust that in the end, you’ll make it to your destination.