Whether you’re headed across country to share a special time with loved ones or just across town to attend an informal party with friends, getting around anywhere during the holiday season presents a host of challenges. Traffic, the weather, parking and increased security are all potential obstacles standing between you and the timely execution of your travel plans. Fortunately, by following the tips below, much of the headaches and stress associated with the holiday getaway can be avoided or mitigated.
Whether you’re travelling by plane, train or automobile you’ll want to jot down some notes and create a travel plan a few weeks in advance of your departure. The earlier you can map out your itinerary and draw-up a timetable the better, because inevitably, you’re going to need to book some type of service or another. The closer it gets to your travel time, the more expensive and limited those service options are going to be. Grab a pad and pencil or call up a spreadsheet… just be sure you list what you need to do and hop to it.
Once your plans have been made, you can relax a bit and shift your attention to the details you have more control over like packing, safeguarding your home and that said, don’t forget to call up your original plan and re-check that all your travel details in order…. tickets are printed, documentation is handy and up-to-date, and the ride to your transportation hub is still a go.
What’s the catch phrase? We have an app for that? Well, when it comes to major transportation carriers, most of them do. Check with your service provider and see what kind of mobile app they feature. Once downloaded to your phone or tablet, most will alert you to any delays, scheduling options and re-ticketing services. Some can actually serve as the boarding pass itself. The latest status information about your flight, rental car or hotel accommodations will be at your fingertips.
With airlines charging fees for checked baggage (not to mention gratuities for handlers all the way from the shuttle bus to the hotel bellhop) many people are exploring options for travelling without their bags. Some have found that shipping the suitcase at a ground rate several days in advance works. Others have actually ordered some attire online and just had the new wardrobe shipped to their destination, freeing them up to travel light or even luggage free. In any case, be sure you manage your baggage accordingly and avoid the last minute curbside repacking if one of your bags tips the scales past the weight limit.
Despite all your wonderful pre-planning, you have to remember it’s the holidays. Things can and will go wrong. Wherever possible, have a plan B in place. If bad weather is predicted or a road is closed, do you have a possible alternative route? Does your transportation provider offer an earlier option that, in lieu of the circumstances, will let you change tickets without a penalty fee? (Many do when inclement weather is predicted). Even if you’re just going across town, do you have the number of a local car service should you drink too much or your designated driver has to bail? Whatever your particular situation, a contingency plan will offer peace of mind and might salvage your holiday plans in the end.
For planes, busses and trains, you’ll find the early morning departures tend to be on time. As the day progresses, the system that started the day do well begins to suffer the circumstances that cause slow downs. Delays and possible cancellations begin to emerge. Even if travelling by car, getting an early start still applies. The roads become more congested as the day progresses - as shoppers, students and the commuters leaving work early exponentially take to the wheel. By leaving first thing, you build yourself a cushion of time to deal with any traffic that does arise… and give yourself the luxury of arriving safely and less stressed.
You’ll be better prepared to make good decisions when hiccups present themselves during your journey if your body has been fed and hydrated. Facing these challenges on an empty stomach will create additional angst and lead to emotional, knee-jerk reactions that might further complicate your trip. Be sure to travel with a care package of beverages and snacks to keep your mind sharp and able to adjust to any travel challenges.
If you’re attending a holiday gathering where gifts are exchanged, consider doing your shopping online and having the gifts sent to your destination in advance of your arrival. This way, you won’t face excess baggage fees at the airport, be stuck schlepping another bag with you through the bus depot, or be stuck spending more money on gas because you’re carrying a trunk filled with toys. Be sure to alert your party host that your gift packages are coming and build in the necessary time to unpack the gifts from their mailers and wrap them in your own wrapping paper if necessary.
Whether you’re on an endless line for a TSA screening or simply going through a bag check at the office building for your holiday party or Broadway play, don’t forget to build time into your travel plans for these additional security requirements. Rethink what you’re carrying (especially if you bear gifts) so that you can alert security agents of any gift or toy that might look suspicious to a screener. Prepare for these screenings by separating out your liquids and electronics. And allow an extra hour to your schedule just for security measures if you’re travelling at a peak travel time.
During the holiday season, not only do highway fatalities go up - but local police forces step up their efforts to enforce DUI laws to keep the community safe. The consequences of driving after a few drinks can be fatal….and costly. In New York State, for instance, the cost of defending a first-time DUI indictment is estimated to run a minimum of $9,500. There’s also a very good chance your driving privileges will be revoked if convicted, so we’re talking about an expensive night on the town. It just makes sense to travel with a designated driver - and if that’s not possible, consider the use of a professional transportation provider. It’s far cheaper in the end!
The key to successful holiday time travel is timely preparation. Plan out your itinerary and make your reservations as early as possible to give yourself the cheapest fares and most flexibility for changes. Confirm everything and stay on top of variables like weather and road maintenance / closures as your departure date gets closer. Whether it’s trip cancellation insurance or just the number of the local 24-hour car service, have some Plan B options available should your original plan face detours. Travel light and afford yourself extra time to accommodate for heavy traffic and long security lines. Stay hydrated and fed so that you’ll be at your best when facing last minute changes to your plans. And don’t be afraid to avail yourself to the services that will make your journey go smoothly - whether that’s tipping a porter to carry your bags or hiring a car service to get you to your departure point stress free. Don’t drink and drive.
More expert advice about General Travel
Photo Credits: HappyAlex/bigstock.com; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com