Traveling during the holidays can possibly be the most stressful of all travel experiences. There are so MANY travelers during that short 4-7 day time span and the complications weather can bring can be a recipe for stress.
I always say that PREPARATION is the #1 stress ‘alleviator’….and with that in mind, here’s a few tips to decrease the stress of holiday travel, whether at the airport or on your drive.
1. Make reservations early. Because of the high volume of travelers during a very small window of time, prices are higher. (Law of Supply & Demand) The earlier you make your reservation, the better deal you will probably find. As soon as your holiday plans are finalized, make those flight or rental car reservations. Review Finding Bargains on Rental Cars for tricks on getting the BEST rate on these. Hotel reservations for drivers should probably be made 2-3 wks in advance unless you are traveling through a very busy area.
2. Plan flights to minimize the effects of weather (i.e. delays, cancellations, etc…). If possible, choose a flight with a layover in a city that gets minimal or no winter weather (Houston, Phoenix, LA, etc…) The drawback to this (you HAD to know there is no perfect solution) is that if that city DOES get winter weather, they will be LESS equipped to deal with it than a northern city, but I still think your chances are better in the south.
3. If driving, have 2 routes (or more??) mapped out. Make your choice based on the weather forecasts. Let someone know the route you are taking and be sure to call them if you change that route for any reason.
4. Weather apps can be very helpful when traveling, especially for drivers. As wonderful as accuweather or 1weather may be, I actually prefer apps from local news stations en route to my destination. The information is more ‘location specific’ and therefore (imho) more accurate. If you don’t have a GPS that gives traffic information, you can get that info from local news station apps as well.
5. Pack your carry on with items you would need for an extended ‘stay’ in an airport. (It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it) Pack an extra change of clothes, toothbrush/paste, hair brush, AND some protein snacks and empty water bottles. I always take snacks in my carry on, but if traveling in winter, I bring a little more than I normally would. An inflatable pillow is a nice item to have on any long flight, but becomes INVALUABLE during a night spent in an airport.
6. If driving, make sure there is WATER and protein snacks in your car. WATER is probably the most important item as it is not readily available on the side of the road. 🙂 Don’t forget it! I’m reminded of a blizzard in our area a few years ago that left travelers lined up for miles on the interstate for 36-48 hrs. because of multiple jack-knifed semis. (The local news stations sent out helicopters to view and film the sight.) Have blankets, gloves and basic tools in your car as well. I’ve even been known to throw a roll of toilet paper into the trunk… You may laugh, but I wonder what those people did sitting out on the interstate for 2 days in that blizzard. 🙂 🙂
7. Flying at Christmas with gifts/packages can add to airline baggage fees. If you will have a significant number of large or bulky gifts, remember that Southwest and Jet Blue Airlines have no baggage fees. Otherwise, you might want to compare shipping costs to baggage fees. ONE MORE NOTE: Take all of this into consideration AS YOU’RE SHOPPING if you know you’ll be flying. (Now THERE’S an argument for gift cards! ha) Also remember that you will probably be flying HOME with gifts as well….and hope everyone else was thinking about this too…. haha!
8. Keep an optimistic attitude. Everyone is trying to do the same thing as you are. It’s as important to every other traveler to make it home as it is for you. The airlines are doing their best to get you to your destination – even working the holiday so you can travel. A little kindness goes a LLLLOOONNNGGG way!!! Arrive at the airport early. Expect long lines and waits. Expect crying children. Comply with the requirements of TSA so as not to bring their attention to you, say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and basically just be polite. It will improve your outlook AND your treatment most of the time.
Yes, travel during the holidays is stressful, but you CAN take some steps to lessen the stress on you and yours. Happy Traveling!! 🙂