Are you one of the millions of people traveling this holiday season? Maybe, you’re off for a warm-weather Christmas getaway, checking out a magical Christmas town or visiting family.
As the holidays quickly approach, it’s time to make sure you have sufficient travel plans to make for an enjoyable trip. It can be a great experience to connect with loved ones and escape some of the stress and tension of your daily life.
Even though most of the world is starting to see more normalcy return after these last couple years, holiday travel can still be tricky, especially this time of year. Expect a busy season as people regain freedom to travel without severe restrictions.
Here are some travel tips of what to do and what not to do to make your trip a little smoother and less stressful.
THE RIGHT ATTITUDE
A helpful way to look at the holiday travel season is with the understanding that it may be unpredictable, a little chaotic and there may be some problems to deal with. Accept this reality and willingly choose to travel with the right attitude.
You may get a nice surprise with everything going according to plan. Patience and compassion along with a flexible attitude are quite helpful in dealing with unexpected occurrences on your trip.
Try and realize what a privilege it is to be able to travel after all of the shut downs the last two years. Take advantage of any challenging situations by swapping stories with passengers or other things you would normally not do.
PLAN EARLY – DON’T DELAY
This holiday travel season is bound to set records. Start as early as you can to research the trip and book your flights, rental cars and hotels or an airbnb.
It can be risky waiting for last minute deals, as there could be a shortage of options. Keep in mind that most of the airlines and tour operators are dealing with employee shortages and delays are more common than in the past.
With planes having limited seating right now, they will fill up faster than at other times of the year. In general, some extremely long lines and wait times could be in store for you at most airports. There are many more flight delays and canceled flights than in the past.
For international travel, make sure you have your passport well in advance. Wait times have steadily increased for both renewals and new applications. Also, check to see if you need a visa.
TAKE AN EARLY MORNING FLIGHT
To start with, ticket prices tend to be lower for early morning flights and airports are usually less crowded earlier in the day.
Early morning flights are less likely to have delays than those flights later in the day. Delay times usually build throughout the day and reach their peak around 6 pm.
Also, if they do happen to cancel your flight, you will have other options to reach your final destination on the same day.
FLY NONSTOP- AVOID ANY CONNECTION DELAYS
Flying nonstop to your destination will give you more peace of mind. With delays frequent at the holidays, try to avoid connecting flights.
It can be quite stressful to catch the second flight or missing it altogether. If you have to take two flights, make sure you plan enough time in between flights.
BUY A FLEXIBLE FLIGHT
With travel uncertain and possible health considerations, a flexible flight might be a good option and worth the extra cost. Flexible flight tickets allow for easier travel with fee-free changes, flight refunds or the option to change your travel dates for free.
For example, Southwest Airlines never charges change or cancellation fees and if you choose a cheaper flight, they will refund the difference. Flexible tickets often have checked-in baggage included.
AVOID POPULAR TRAVEL DAYS
Usually, the days that surround Thanksgiving and Christmas tend to be some of the most desirable travel days. Consider extending your stay or arriving early if it is possible.
During Christmas week the earlier you depart the better. Typically, the worst dates to fly for Christmas are typically December 23rd and 24th and returning on the 26th.
Many times, flying on Christmas Day can be a good day to travel with most of the people already having arrived at their destinations. Try to click on “flexible dates” to find the lowest price flight days for you to book.
CHECK ALTERNATE AIRPORTS
You could be creative with you holiday travel plans and experience some less expensive pricing and fewer delays by taking flights from different airports.
For example, flights into Miami could be filled, but you have Ft Lauderdale and West Palm Beach airports less than an hour away. Rental cars could also be less at some other locations.
WATCH THE WEATHER
The weather is one thing that can significantly affect your trip. Don’t make assumptions as to what you think the weather will be like.
Always make sure you watch the weather reports ahead of time so you can adjust accordingly if you have to. It will also help you in making sure you take along the appropriate clothing.
You can even use apps such as The Weather Channel to receive alerts when various things are happening, like storms or rain that my show up in your area on hourly or daily basis.
AVOID RENTAL CAR CHALLENGES
It can be chaotic trying to locate a rental car at the last minute and much more expensive for this holiday period. Booking a car as early as you can will save you some headaches. Waiting until the last minute, you may not get the car you reserved or leave you without one altogether.
You may want to spend a few minutes comparing rental car prices with various apps, such Kayak. Sometimes, you can find more availability at non-airport rental locations. A neighborhood branch may even offer you free pickup service.
DOUBLE-CHECK RESTAURANTS AND ATTRACTIONS
Be sure to make your reservations early. Some restaurants may have extended wait times because of their limited employees. Even arrive early at restaurants to make sure you get seated. Also, some restaurants may have closed with the challenges of the last two years.
Many attractions and experiences have reduced capacity, so book tours ahead or you may miss out. Check schedules for the activities and places you do not want to miss and be sure to check for special holiday hours or limited times of being open.
RESEARCH COVID REQUIREMENTS AND GUIDELINES
There are different protocols, regulations and circumstances to become acquainted with depending on your travel destination. So, being prepared is essential for a successful trip.
If you are traveling internationally, you need to follow the entry requirements of your destination country. Some countries require proof of vaccination for travelers wishing to enter or exit the country. Also, make sure to check regulations to see if you need a negative Covid test before entering the country. Check the CDC guidelines for more information.
PACK SMART AND SHIP YOUR GIFTS
The best tip is to not fly with any gifts. Mail them, give gift cards or have Amazon deliver them.
If you choose to bring along gifts on the plane, make sure you don’t wrap them. Security may decide to unwrap them. For gifts that you decide to ship, do so well before you leave.
DOWNLOAD TRAVEL APPS
With more and more reliance on our phones in planning and taking trips, travel apps can be extremely useful. You can take care of the details more quickly and easier while saving time and money.
There are a tremendous variety of apps for your phone from finding good deals on flights, tracking flight delays, finding last-minute accommodations as well as booking restaurant reservations and keeping your itinerary organized.
Hopper is an example of a good app to use when planning a trip and before you buy any tickets. It tracks flight prices and gives advice on timing to buy, including notifications when the price drops. It actually gives you a date when the price will likely go up.
Another helpful app is TripIt that can simplify your itineraries and documents by keeping them organized in one place. In this one app, you can look at travel confirmations, flight itineraries, Airbnb and hotel booking information, rental car reservations and find mapping directions.
Be sure to also have access to some of your favorite streaming platforms, like Netflix, HBO, Hulu and others.
There are dozens of travel apps from which to choose. Here is a list that includes many of them: https://www.travelandleisure.com/travel-news/best-free-travel-apps
MAKE BACKUP PLANS
As holidays can be a crazy time for travel, one of the most important tips would be to have a backup plan for everything you are scheduled to do, including travel plans, dates, itinerary, accommodations and activity plans.
Make sure you have alternatives in mind, just in case unexpected things happen. Even if you don’t have to use it, just having a backup plan will reduce some of your travel anxiety and give you more peace of mind.
For example, create an alternate route to your destination. If a particular flight is canceled, find out how far it is to drive to your destination, or you might check buses or train routes.
Travel insurance can provide a vital safeguard and sense of security for your trip. Don’t forget to plan for the unexpected. If you happen to get sick or injured, it could be the most expensive part of your trip.
Insurance can minimize some of the possible risks when you are traveling, which can include accidents, illness, lost baggage, missed flights, theft, emergency evacuation situations, and others.
Study your policies carefully to make sure you are protected from pandemics, trip delays and cancellations. When traveling overseas, your airline may check your travel insurance. Make sure you have your policy documents available.
These are some of our top tips for traveling during the holidays. The trip doesn’t have to be overwhelming or stressful. If you are prepared for some possible bumps in the road, you can better maintain a sense of peace throughout your holiday trip.
The bottom line is to make sure you plan ahead with plenty of time and are prepared for your trip.
We hope that following these tips will help you to have a safe journey and relaxing holiday trip!