When traveling during the holiday season, you can expect to find higher fares, larger crowds and lines, and a bit more hustle and bustle than any other time of the year. But don’t let these factors stress you out or influence you to alter your travel plans.
I travel throughout the year, but can attest that preparation is especially key to staying stress-free during holiday travel. So, I’ve compiled my best advice for booking your vacation, packing your suitcase, and keeping your cool when traveling this holiday season. Read on for my ten stress-free holiday travel tips.
- When I say early, I mean YESTERDAY. The longer you wait, the more it’ll cost, assuming you can find space at all. So make your plans ASAP to get the best deal.
- If you know that you want to get away, are on a budget, but don’t know where to go, I suggest traveling to a European capital, like Paris, Rome or even Prague. There are plenty of great airfare and hotel deals around Thanksgiving, especially.
- This next tip may not work for everyone, but if you can travel ON a holiday, you’ll usually find space and save some money. For example, Christmas Day is often the beginning of low season (and hence, costs less) for some destinations. However, Dec. 24, Christmas Eve, is still peak season. There can be a big cost differential there, so weigh your options carefully.
- Never take a flight during the holiday season without having some emergency supplies in your carry on. That means a change of clothes, essential toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, face wash), something to read/watch, and an extra battery or portable charger for your cell phone or tablet. If you’re stuck in the airport or on the plane unexpectedly, you’d be surprised at how much better washing your face and brushing your teeth can make you feel.
- While you’re at it, make sure you also have extra cash on hand. Hopefully you won’t have to dip into your stash, but if you run into a delayed flight, power outage, or other event, you’ll be covered and won’t feel panicked.
- Try hard to travel with only a carry-on and personal bag. Especially around Christmas, people are traveling with presents, which complicates retrieving your checked bag upon arrival and delays you getting to your destination. This can also save you money on checked bag fees.
- If you’re already planning to check your bag, ensure it doesn’t exceed weight or size limitations — or be prepared to pay. Bags over 50 pounds and/or 62 inches long will incur an extra fee that varies by carrier — but these fees can be easily avoided. Check the website of the carrier you’re flying for its specific baggage weight and size limitations. Then weigh and measure your bags before you head to the airport.
- Bringing gifts along? To avoid having to check a bag full of presents at a substantial cost, why not mail it to yourself at your final destination? You’ll still have the pleasure of exchanging gifts, but you won’t have had to schlep them along in your suitcase.
- On full flights, you may discover that business class has extra seats. Ask when you check-in for your flight if you can buy a discounted business class ticket. You’d be surprised to learn that last-minute business class seats can sell for as little as $200 each way. The same is true when you fly domestically, although snagging a first class seat is much harder because of all the rewards programs. But if you get lucky, not only will you greatly increase your comfort level while traveling, but a lucky person on standby will be able to slip into your newly vacated seat. Everyone wins.
- Crowds can make for tempers, but try to keep your cool. Be kind to the TSA agents and flight attendants. They’re probably working long hours away from their families to ensure you can travel during the holidays. Good karma can find its way back to you and make you feel less stressed (and merrier) this holiday season.
Those are my tips for stress-free holiday travel. What would you add to my list? Let me know in a comment below.