Travel Tips for Stress-Free Thanksgiving & Holiday Travel

photo credit: Cory Hatchel

With long line ups, delayed flights and crowds of irritated people at the airport, there is no doubt that traveling during the Thanksgiving and holiday season can be a real challenge. As Thanksgiving and ‘the busiest day of the travel year’ approaches, here are a few of my tried-and-true tips on how to survive “terminal madness” at the airport and make your journey more enjoyable during the travel crunch…

Book Early:  Procrastination isn’t your friend. Be sure to book your flight in advance for better prices and bigger selection of dates and routes. According to a recent article in the NYTimes, the lowest ticket prices for Thanksgiving week were available about 60 to 70 days ahead of departure, according to data analyzed by Hopper. Try to avoid booking on the busiest days, usually the Wednesday before and the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Think about flying on Thanksgiving morning to minimize the crowds.

Check in Online and Give Yourself Time: Be sure to check in online ahead of time to avoid an unnecessary line up. Give yourself lots of time to get to the airport, so you’re not stressed out, rushing around. Arriving to the airport 45 minutes earlier than normal might make a huge difference, considering security line ups and unexpected delays. If you’re driving yourself, Waze is one of the best crowdsourced traffic apps that will automatically reroute you through traffic and get you to the airport via the fastest route.

Book a Direct Flight: It will cost more than connecting flights but may save you hours in layovers if you get stuck somewhere due to weather delays. If budget is more your concern, then connecting flights are typically your best financial bet, but be aware of potential delays and give yourself a good buffer zone between flight connections.

Pack the Perfect Carry-On: A simple way to save money and time (so you’re not waiting around at the baggage carousel) is to travel with a carry-on. If bulky winter gear is an issue, wear your heaviest winter stuff and pack the light clothes. Remember, pack your carry-ons with security lines in mind. Laptops and liquids (containers of 3.4 ounces or less held in a clear quart-sized plastic bag) must come out separately to go through the screening checkpoints so keep them at the top of your luggage so they’re easy to access.

Pick the Right Airport: Travelocity took a look at the airports that historically have had the highest traffic above average (TAA) for the Thanksgiving season. If possible, these are some airports to avoid:
1. Denver International Airport (23% TAA)
2. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (22% TAA)
3. Newark Liberty International Airport (21% TAA)
4. Los Angeles International Airport (19% TAA)
5. San Francisco International Airport (18% TAA)
So if you have an option, consider an alternative airport – not only to avoid the crowds, but also to save some money. For example, try John Wayne in Long Beach or Burbank instead of LAX. San Jose Mineta in Oakland instead of San Francisco. Fort Lauderdale Airport or West Palm Beach instead of Miami.

Pack a Survival Kit: If you’re delayed at the airport, you can’t fully chill out unless you have supplies. Laptop or iPad for watching movies, which always kill a good chunk of time…don’t forget your chargers. Bose noise-canceling headphones are a great way to escape the sound of screaming babies and travel companions who are getting on your nerves. Pack snacks. Hunger leads to crankiness, so I always pack some crackers, fruit, almonds or granola bars to keep me going through my layover. An empty water bottle – to fill up at free water fountains in the airport after you get through security. Filling up your own bottle is cheaper, better for the environment (if you use a re-usable one) and staying hydrated helps avoid jet lag.

Splurge for the Lounge: If you’re facing a really long delay or layover, splurge and pay the extra for access to the business lounge. Many of the major airlines have one day passes (approximately $50) where you’ll have access to a variety of amenities: snacks, self service bar, high-speed internet, newspapers, etc.  For me, it’s totally worth it!  For a little extra, you’ll find the seating is more comfortable and the atmosphere more relaxed. The app Lounge Buddy, has reviews of lounges and their fees.“Priority Pass, which offers three levels of membership, from $99 to $349 a year, gives you access to more than 950 airport lounges in over 400 cities worldwide. Before you pay to use any airport lounge, check the consumer reviews found on Lounge Guide just to make sure you’re not paying a day rate for a lounge that doesn’t have food or wifi.

Get to Know Your Airport: Use the app GateGuru to see what shops, restaurants and amenities are in your domestic or international airport. Some airports have a yoga room or stations to get a manicure or massage. Chicago O’Hare, for example, has a yoga room, but there’s also an 8,000 square-foot athletic club at the Hilton Hotel at the terminal where you can enjoy a steam room, sauna, lap pool Jacuzzi and workout equipment while you wait for your flight.

Traveling with Kids: think about booking a late flight so that they are more likely to sleep on the plane. Snacks, ipod, activities. Be last to board the plane, so the kids maximize their time to run around and stretch their legs before a long flight.

App It Up: If your flight is canceled or delayed and you need to book a new flight, most people wait at their gate or head to an airline customer service desk to get help with a new ticket. Download the mobile airline app to see if they have a rebooking feature, where you can select new flights, or reach out to the customer service team via Twitter.

Embrace the Zen: If things don’t go well – if your flight is cancelled, delayed, the plane needs maintenance or whatever – don’t get stressed. If you don’t have the power to change it, why sweat it? Embracing the Zen is one of the most important things in travel…especially during the holiday season.  It’s a special time of year, a time of charity and appreciating what we have…so hopefully we can all take that spirit of kindness with us, all the way through airport security.

This story was originally published via Travelocity  

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