Whether you’re going away for a vacation or visiting family, holiday travel can be really stressful thanks to slow traffic, congested airports and cold weather, among other things. But it doesn’t always have to be this taxing. Try these ten smart strategies to simplify your holiday travel:
- Lighten your load. Pack light if you’re going away only for a few days. The lighter your suitcase, easier it will be to lug around. Take no more than one pair of jeans and two pairs of shoes. Wear bulkier clothing items like jackets, winter coats and boots, instead of putting them in your suitcase. Check out this handy guide for more quick and easy packing hacks.
- Avoid peak travel days. Try not to plan your trip around high-travel days (the days before and after Thanksgiving and Christmas). Roads and airports are jam-packed during this time and hotel rates are through the roof. You also need to consider the possibility of unfavorable situations like bad weather and flight delays.
Therefore, it’s best to leave home at least two to three days before the big holiday. If you’re traveling by air, book an early morning or a late evening flight to avoid heavy footfall at the airport.
- Be a smart traveler. Store liquids and gels (up to 3.4 ounces) in travel-size bottles and keep them in a clear plastic bag. Place them at the top in your carry-on along with electronic devices like laptops. That way you won’t have to fish them out from under piles of clothes at the airport security line. Store all cords and charging cables in a pouch or an old eyeglass case. In addition, keep travel essentials like chapstick, earphones, and eye mask in the front pockets of your bag for easy access.
- Don’t wrap the presents beforehand. It might seem like a clever time-saving hack, but wrapping gifts in advance is a bad idea if you’re traveling by plane. This is because airport security officials sometimes need to unwrap presents for closer inspection during the screening process. TSA recommends sending your gifts via mail or putting them in gift bags instead of wrapping them up. If you do online shopping, it’s best to have the gifts shipped directly to your travel destination.
- Reserve parking space ahead of time. Unsurprisingly, most airport parking lots fill up quickly during the holidays. To avoid any last-minute panic, see if you can book a spot in advance through the airport website. Or, use apps like ParkingPanda and SpotHero to save time and money. Also, check out alternate airports, particularly smaller ones, for backup.
- Label your bags. Print out labels with your name and contact details on them and stick them on your bags and suitcase. This makes it easier for the airport staff to retrieve your luggage, in case it gets lost or misplaced. It can also help you quickly locate your bag on the carousel. And if you’re traveling abroad, make sure you’ve got scanned copies of your passport and other travel documents backed up on your phone and iCloud.
- Focus on pre-departure preparations. Make a to-do list of all important things you need to get done before leaving home (eg: buying travel insurance, making travel itinerary, calling your credit card company, getting your car serviced if you’re going by road, etc.). Start ticking off all the boxes two to three days before your journey. Remember, the more prepared and organized you are, the less stressful your travel experience will be.
- Leave home early. This might sound obvious but you’d be surprised at how many people miss their flights just because they didn’t arrive early. Allow extra time for slow traffic and packed parking lots. Reach the airport at least two hours prior to flight departure so you don’t have to check your watch again and again while standing in the security line. Also, check-in online, wherever possible, to save time.
- Stay up to date. Stay informed about boarding info, flight delays and any last-minute changes with the help of travel planning apps like TripIt. You can use it to track check-in timings, flight status, gate changes and for changing your seats. Meanwhile, if you’re hitting the road, try apps like GasBuddy and Roadtrippers.
- Keep the kids happy. Traveling with kids can be very stressful for both the parents and the kids if you don’t plan everything carefully. Taking a road trip? Make sure you have packed essentials like snacks, toys, wet wipes, coloring books and crayons and a few travel-friendly games to keep your children entertained. And don’t forget to pack a portable battery charger for their iPads and gaming devices. If you’re traveling with a baby, carry a changing station in your car. Those of you who are traveling by plane, pack snacks and water, even if you know the airline serves food. And check-in your bags so you don’t have to manage restless kids while lugging around heavy suitcases. Other than that, bring some kid-friendly activities (coloring books, iPad games, movies, etc.) and board early so you’ve enough time and space to get your kids comfortable.