When the average person thinks about holidays travel, they imagine a literal crush of people wheeling suitcases, screaming kids, and inevitable airport delays. While you can’t avoid all of the crowds, it is possible to plan ahead to have a more productive and enjoyable traveling experience.
- try to avoid peak travel days
- plan for the unexpected
- check the road conditions and be prepared
- consider taking the train
- bring some cash
- ignore travel warning signs
- forget about smaller alternative airports
- pick flights with very short layover times
- get angry
- pack everything you own
Looking at the calendar will help you see what will be the busiest days of the travel season. For 2012, December 22nd, 23rd, and the 30th will be especially busy. Consider traveling during the week, or even on Christmas Day in order to save money and avoid crowds and delays. If you can’t avoid certain days, then try to book flights very early in the day, since delays tend to cascade throughout the day.
Flight delays are always possible, even if you plan southern connections. Be prepared for delays by bringing along nutritious snacks and some forms of entertainment. This is especially important when traveling with children. Bring an extra DVD player and your kid’s favorite foods in order to keep stress levels at a minimum. It’s also important to react quickly when things change, so be sure you call the airline instead of waiting in line, and be proactive in booking a hotel if it’s clear that your flight won’t take off until the morning.
When traveling by car during the winter months, you absolutely need to keep an eye on the weather. Trying to drive through a blizzard is not a badge of courage, but an unnecessary risk. You also should have a complete safety kit in the car, with extra blankets, batteries, and food. Especially if you are traveling to unfamiliar or mountainous regions, you should be over prepared in case you get stranded.
While it certainly is not as fast as air travel, taking the train can be a very fun experience, especially for any Thomas the Tank Engine fans. For medium-length trips, the train can be quite efficient, as you have less time to wait in security, and can avoid layovers. It also gives you time to relax and move around, which can be especially helpful for those with restless youngsters.
Even though we are moving towards a cash-less society, it’s important to travel with some cash on hand. Not only is it good to have in case of emergency, the valet and bellhops will appreciate even a $1 tip. In busy airports cash can also be quicker, giving you that extra few seconds to grab a meal while you run to your connection.
Be proactive in your travel planning and avoid delays. Keep an eye on the weather and try to make flight plans before you leave. If a major snowstorm is headed through Detroit, and you have a connection there, then it might be worth the change fees to alter your flight. Or you could even be one of the first to get a free change if the airline determines that delays are inevitable.
If you are traveling to a popular destination such as Boston, then consider T.F. Green Airport in Rhode Island as an alternative. Some airports are even smaller and can offer you a chance to escape the crowds and the overbooking delays that can come with them. Play around with your air travel bookings to find alternative airports that fit your needs. Paying $40 extra per ticket is worth improving your odds of an on-time flight.
Some connections have layover times of only 30 to 35 minutes. If you have a seat in the back of the plane and need to go through three terminals, then you might not make your connection even if your first flight is on time. Layovers of two to three hours can be tedious, but they do give you a cushion of time. They can also be valuable by giving you time to stretch your legs and eat a decent meal that you don’t have to inhale.
Millions of people travel during the holidays. Someone is going to bump into you, drop their carry on bag on your feet, or not smell too fresh on the plane. By taking everything in stride you set yourself up for a better vacation experience. Don’t sit on your Kauai beach and stew about that jerk on the plane, let it go and try to relax.
Unless you are literally traveling to the middle of the rain forest, you can find almost anything you need on the road. You can acquire clothing and toothpaste anywhere, so don’t worry. While you should pack smart, be sure you pack light. If you are staying at a relative’s place for 10 days, you can bring clothes for five days, and then simply do a load of laundry halfway through. If you have kids, set rules for the number of “stuffies” or toys than can bring, so you don’t break your back carrying too many things.
Traveling during the holidays will likely never be a stress-free endeavor. It will always be a popular time to travel, and tempers will occasionally flare. But with preparation and the right attitude you can at least put the odds in your favor that your journey will go smoothly and you know what to do in case things go awry.