In this post we help you**Reduce the risk of being an angry elf. **
Traveling during the holidays is more synonymous with long lines at security, flight delays and crowded highways than it is with anything particularly cheery. Inclement weather and the fact that millions of people are trying to do the same thing you are don’t create the ideal scenario, but there are steps you can take to make your traveling experience as pain-free as possible. In a world full of traveling Grinches, learn how to be the Cindy Lou Who.
If you haven’t bought your plane tickets already:
According to The Travel Chicks blog, the best time to book a ticket is Tuesday afternoon. They said airlines drop their prices on Tuesdays and raise them throughout the week, so Tuesday afternoon is the ideal time to buy. They also recommend setting fare alerts from a website such as www.airfarewatchdog.com, so that you’ll be notified whenever fares drop.
If you’re searching for plane tickets from different websites, it’s also smart to turn on your private browsing feature. In an article about unknown benefits of private browsing, Null Byte states that this approach could save you money, as airlines won’t be able to see which tickets you’re interested in purchasing and then raise the prices.
Finding a flight that leaves early in the morning can also decrease your chances of delays, according to an article about holiday travel by the Travel Channel. It also gives you more time to get on another flight if you do happen to get bumped.
At the airport:
Before you get to the airport, go ahead and check in, as most airlines offer check in 24 hours in advance. Kimberly of The Stuffed Suitcase blog suggests doing this over the holidays in particular, as many flights are overbooked, and a delay could cause you to get bumped from your flight. She also recommends getting to the airport earlier than you normally would. When millions of people are flying the days before Thanksgiving and Christmas, security lines will probably not be running as efficiently. Getting to the airport early will give you much more peace of mind if the lines are out of control.
Kimberly also suggests not wrapping any presents beforehand. If there is anything in the gifts that TSA needs to inspect, the gifts will have to be unwrapped. Shipping gifts would be the best option, followed by just packing the items in your suitcase and bringing gift bags to plop them into upon arrival. She also suggests trying to not check a bag if at all possible, as to avoid the risk of losing your luggage and presents.
Follow your airline’s Twitter account, and download its app as well. If there’s information about delays, changes or anything else you need to know, this is likely the first place it’s going to be posted. It will also save you the trouble of having to speak with an attendant, when they are probably already inundated with problems to solve.
Real Simple magazine suggests in this article about money-saving holiday tips to avoid driving yourself to the airport if at all possible, because airport parking is much more expensive around the holidays. See if you’re on the nice list with one of your friends and can grab a ride, or opt for a cab if they think you’ve been too naughty.
The article also suggests looking at other modes of transportation. While a train or bus will most certainly take longer, the chunk of change you could save could be put toward other holiday expenses. If you have the time, it’s probably worth it.
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On the road:
Google maps reported that the worst Thanksgiving traffic is on Wednesday afternoon, from 3-5 p.m. If you can avoid being on the road at those times at all, you should. Also, returning home on Sunday will most likely be less of a headache than being on the road Saturday, as traffic can be up to 40% worse on Saturday. And if you’re traveling locally, driving on the morning of Thanksgiving is the smartest, as it has the lowest traffic of the entire week. As a general rule of thumb, traffic is the least painful late at night or early in the morning (when everyone else is sleeping). If you can alter your sleep schedule a bit to drive through the night, you’ll make much better time.
If you’re traveling through winter weather you may not be used to, check out this winter driving checklist from AAA to make sure your car is prepped for the snow. The app GasBuddy will show you the cheapest gas along your route, so be sure to download it when driving through areas you aren’t familiar with. The Stuffed Suitcase blog also recommends hiding any wrapped gifts in your car when parked to eat or rest.
Also, don’t forget the road trip necessities - a great playlist, chargers for all of your electronics and lots of snack options. There’s nothing worse than being hangry, and there’s especially nothing worse than being hangry while driving through the middle of nowhere with no food options in sight.
However you get to where you’re going this holiday season, remember that keeping a positive attitude (and a fully charged phone) is your best strategy to tackle any travel challenges that arise. There are a lot of people out there trying to do the same thing you are, and staying calm, planning ahead and allowing yourself as much time as you can will make your trip as stress-free as possible.
Photo: OJ Byrne