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Keep all the excitement and joy of traveling during the holidays and leave the stress at home with these 12 tips.
I try to avoid travelling at the busiest times of year. Holiday periods are more expensive, crowded and can be all around more frustrating - particularly if bad weather enters the mix. However, sometimes you simply cannot avoid those busy times if you want to make it home in time to see your loved ones for Christmas, Easter, New Years, Thanksgiving, etc.
Not to worry though, with a bit of forethought and patience, your travel experience will be a pleasant one. This article will assume you’ve already booked everything necessary and just want to get from point A to B and retain your sanity by the end of it. So without further adieu, here we go!
1. Pre-select your seat (even if you have to pay).
It pains me to suggest this as I avoid paying for seat selection 99 times out of 100 (total money grab!) but in certain instances - when you know the plane is going to be packed to the rafters and you have a tight connection or are travelling alone - it can be worth it to cough up the extra dollars to avoid being sat in a middle seat between two chatty Cathys for 13 hours. Additionally, being amongst the first to get off the plane and getting in line at customs can give you some extra relaxing layover time, or get you into the arms of loved ones that much faster. Selecting a window or aisle seat may also prove the difference in being able to sleep, or being able to visit the bathroom 11 times (you know that’s true for some of us!).
2. Check in online.
By pre-providing necessary information to the airline via online check in, you can save yourself a few precious minutes at the check in counter. Plus, ‘check in’ and ‘check luggage’ times are often different (eg. 90 minutes versus 60 minutes respectively), so you can buy yourself more time to get to the airport. You can also review your seat selection and make any other last minute luggage changes or additions online, which is usually cheaper than doing it at the airport.
3. Research your layover airports.
Not all airports are created equal. If you have a long layover between flights, do some Googling and find out what amenities are available in the terminal and how far you will have to walk. Can you purchase an airline lounge pass? Are there sleeping pods available for rent? Showers available? What restaurants are there? Planning a power nap, delicious meal and/or refreshing shower can make all the difference in arriving to your final destination refreshed and ready to visit - or explore!
4. Invest in a luggage scale.
As someone who has both paid through the nose, and been forced to rip open my carefully packed suitcase and readjust items to suit weight restrictions, I can say with confidence it is worth picking up a luggage scale to help efficiently pack your travel bags (think presents!). Check the luggage requirements on all of your flight legs and follow them to the letter.
5. Use a carry-on that has four wheels.
It’s amazing how much more relaxing it is to make your way around the airport with a carry-on that is easy to maneuver. If you’re buying a new bag for this trip, we strongly recommend the zippy four-wheeled ones.
6. Use the TRAVELHER checklist to prepare for air travel.
Travel docs - passport, visas, insurance, copies
Reading materials - book, magazine, e-reader
Arrival kit - toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorant, makeup, hairbrush
Vital necessities - medications, glasses/contacts, tissues, lip balm, hangry snacks
Electronics - phone, camera, entertainment, headphones, chargers, extra charger, adaptors
Local currency - cash for layovers & arrival
Hard copies for digital backup - addresses, phone numbers, local map
Extra clothing - socks & sweater for plane, fresh clothes for arrival/in case of disruption
Resting aids - eye mask, travel pillow, ear plugs
7. Prepare for last minute hiccups, weather/airline disruptions.
Review all of your necessary documents to make sure spelling, dates etc all look right, fully charge your phone (and backup charger), load your phone with data, have cash on you and carry a hard copy of travel information in case you need to make any last minute arrangements. Check the weather reports for all your stops and track your flight to make sure everything is on time.
8. Dress to feel good.
Wearing 3-inch heels when you have to sprint to make a connection at a large sprawling airport is not a good idea. On the other hand, it can feel a bit grubby wearing sweats walking through airports and chatting to strangers. Try to wear something that makes you feel confident but is comfortable enough to see you through several hours of flying. Side note: There are rumours that dressing up gives you a better chance of being upgraded to business class. I would argue it would be tougher to score this perk during the holidays and it has yet to ever happen to me ;)
9. Go to the airport earlier than usual.
I am a classic ‘wait to the last minute’ air traveller so it pains me to say this but the lines really are longer than usual during the holidays, so it is worth leaving a bit earlier than normal.
10. Be a helpful customer.
Yes, the customer should always be right but after a day of dealing with grumpy humans, you can bet the person standing at the airline counter is going to respond better to a smiling passenger who has their passport open to the appropriate page and their luggage ready to pop on the scale. Sometimes you need their help checking your bags all the way through to your destination or changing your seat at the last minute… kindness goes a much longer way than making aggressive demands. And it feels much better, too! Again this is common sense but after rushing around to make it on time, it’s easy to get caught up in the frustration of the moment.
11. Deal with any problems as soon as they arise.
There are many things that can go wrong when piled together with thousands of strangers trying to get from one part of the world to the other. We often tell ourselves to just suck it up to avoid rocking the boat, but if you address a crappy situation head on, you may be able to solve it right away and save yourself some pain. Picture this: you’ve been sat next to someone on the plane who is coughing and sneezing non-stop and you’re sure you’re going to arrive at your ski vacation and be down with the flu the entire time. You can either silently seethe the entire way or avoid this scenario with a quick, smiling word to the air host. Chances are they will accommodate your request! If not, you can at least avoid the self-judgement knowing you did everything you could if you do happen to end up bedridden in the Rocky Mountains.
12. A positive attitude can fix almost any situation.
Ugh, cliche I know but it’s true! We’re so good at avoiding discomfort and pain that we are not sure how to handle it when it arises. Being in transit is one of the few aspects of modern life where we can’t control our comfort levels... BUT, we can make the experience way better or far worse with our thoughts. One person’s adventure is another person’s disaster. Make sure you’re always on an adventure! And remember if all else fails, shitty situations usually turn into good stories to share on Travelher ;)
Author - Meghan Advent
Meghan is the co-founder and head editor of Travelher. She is passionate about travel, women's rights and every cat everywhere.