“You can tell a lot about a person by the way (s)he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.” – Maya Angelou
The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s makes for the busiest time of the year for airports, airlines, hotels, cruise ships—and probably you. Add in unreliable and oftentimes dreadful weather, overbooked flights, over-scheduled families, oversized coats, overpacked luggage and overtired kids coming down from sugar highs, and it’s almost enough to make you want to just stay home. But holiday travel doesn’t have to be so stressful. Here are our six best holiday travel tips for maintaining your sanity and good cheer while traveling over the holidays.
Book Your Rides
Between airline tickets and hotel confirmations, you likely already have the major plans in place, but equally important are your rides to and from the airport—and car services do get booked up. Go ahead and schedule your rides as soon as you have your flights done and save the confirmation details in the same folder. Note that many rideshare apps (like Uber and Lyft) now allow for pre-booking as far ahead as 30 days in advance. If you find that your destination doesn’t allow certain rideshare programs, ask your host or hotel concierge for a recommendation—some cities have their own (for instance, Austin, Texas has the nonprofit Ride Austin).
Request Then Confirm (… Then Confirm Again)
The holidays are often the craziest time of year for hotels—they’re typically running near or at capacity and their restaurants are packed, plus there tend to be a huge number of special requests. Hotel staffers are legendary in their capabilities to make things happen, but you will do yourself and your family a big favor by making requests well in advance, and then confirming once or even twice in the week leading up to your arrival. What kinds of requests are we talking about? Connecting room options is an important one, as is bed configurations, plus restaurant reservations, activities plans and such extras as spa appointments.
Embrace Travel Agents & Travel Insurance
Frighteningly bad traffic or long security lines that cause you to miss a flight; delayed or cancelled flights; missed connections… It’s the stuff of nightmares, and getting rebooked when planes are already packed can be extremely difficult and pricey. Enter travel agents and travel insurance. Travel agents typically offer clients 24/7 phone and email assistance expressly for rebooking flights and making other necessary arrangements—and they can do it much faster than you can at the airport. Travel insurance policies are complex and varied but can reimburse you for additional flights, travel expenses (unexpected meals and hotel rooms in or near the airport) or even for your whole trip if it is cancelled.
Sign Up for Global Entry & TSA Pre-Check
Sign up for Global Entry, the international program supported by US Customs and Border Protection, and you’ll not only skip passport control lines upon landing in your destination (and upon your arrival home in the United States), but also receive TSA Pre-Check, which allows you to go through a separate, much shorter security line that doesn’t require removing shoes, laptops or even (light) jackets. The Global Entry application process is lengthy and somewhat tedious but membership lasts for five years. Note: be sure to add to your Known Traveler ID number to your bookings so your boarding pass will have the game-changing TSA Pre-Check stamp.
Ship Your Luggage
Shipping your luggage (and golf clubs and skis) ahead of you not only means you’ll need a smaller car to the airport, get to bypass check-in and baggage drop, breeze through security, and stroll through the airport unhindered by anything except maybe a latte, but it also means you won’t need to fight for overhead compartment space, worry about your bags not making it, or wait at the baggage claim when all you want to do is finally be at your final destination. Let Luggage Forward handle it all and your bag can be in your hotel room waiting for you upon check in.
Take Care of Yourself
Finally, and most importantly among holiday travel tips: remember that this time of year is a marathon, not a sprint, and take care of yourself along the way. Remember to hydrate, take precautionary Vitamin C or Airborne, stretch on long flights and use airport time to get your blood circulating. A good book, noise-cancelling headphones, cozy oversized scarf and calming moisturizer go a long way, as do sneaking in naps where you can.
Whether you’re going on an exotic vacation or just to see relatives, for an overnight or a two-week vacation, the strain of travel around this time of year is the same—and planning ahead is the only way to ease some of the tension. Well, planning and packing good travel snacks! What are your best holiday travel tips and tricks? Share them in the comments below—every little bit helps!