16 holiday tips to make your journey easier and more enjoyable

I have 16 holiday tips to help you make your travel easier and more enjoyable.

Southwest Airlines B737 landing at Philadelphia International Airport. Copyright © 2018 NSL Photography. All Rights Reserved.Surprise! Here are 16 holiday tips to make your travel more enjoyable. It may be less than a week from Halloween, but already in the US, there are “Black Friday” advertisements for shopping the day after Thanksgiving, still more than three weeks away. On television, we’re already seeing Christmas-themed programs and movies. The cues indicating end-of-year holidays are unmistakable. Therefore, if you haven’t booked your holiday travel yet, what are you waiting for?

If you’re traveling for U.S. Thanksgiving and haven’t yet made your reservations, you’re already late, so get moving. If you’re traveling for the December holidays, it’s time to book your journey now.

The skies will be crowded, the hotels filled, the rental cars scarce, and the restaurants with few empty tables. I have 16 holiday travel tips to help you make your journey easier and more enjoyable with fewer problems.

Book your flight early, shop for deals, and go for early morning flights. Avoid flying on the busiest holiday travel dates.

Book early:
If you’re traveling for Thanksgiving and haven’t yet made your plane reservations, while you’ve missed the ideal October window, make your reservation immediately. There may yet be some good deals and seats available for upcoming holiday flights.

Shop around:
It’s still not too late to shop for good deals on your flights, so before pressing the “buy” button, shop for them.

Book early morning flights:
I recommend this whenever you’re booking flights. When you have a choice, book early morning flights. You may have to wake earlier, but early morning flights generally have two major advantages over flights later in the day. Early morning flights are more likely to leave on time. If your flight is canceled, you have a better chance than later flights to book flights for a same-day arrival at your destination.

Avoid travel on the busiest holiday travel dates:
If possible, don’t travel on the day before or after either Thanksgiving or Christmas, the busiest holiday travel days. Consider traveling a few days before and after the holidays, if you can, or possibly trying to fly in on the holidays themselves and then back a few days later.

Plan adequate layover time:
If you need to use connecting flights, rather than a preferable direct, non-stop flight to your destination, plan adequate layover time between your flights to account for problems of weather and air traffic delays due to crowded flights and skies to avoid missing your connection flight.

Using points or miles for your airline, hotel, car rental, etc., can substantially reduce your holiday travel costs.

Use points/miles to pay for your reservations:
If you have airline, hotel, or car rental points/miles available, don’t forget that you might be able to use them to reduce your holiday travel costs.

Plan your parking:
Parking lots at the airport may be jammed when you arrive for holiday flights. Parking lot shuttles to the terminal may be full and slow. Give yourself extra time to park, or if available, consider taking a train directly to the airport. I take advantage of off-site parking at my home airport. I make a parking reservation immediately after making my flight reservations.

PreCheck and Global Entry:
While it may be too late to get TSA PreCheck or Global Entry from US Customs and Border Protection for the holidays, apply for one now. You may get PreCheck approval in time for your holiday journey. PreCheck can help air travelers get through U.S. airport security much more quickly. At the same time, Global Entry for U.S. citizens traveling internationally can not only speed your way through Immigration and Customs when you return to the US, it also gives members PreCheck privileges for their outgoing flights.

Get to the airport early:
The airports will be crowded during the holidays. Parking lots will be jammed. Lines at check-in and airport security will be long and slow. Don’t leave for the airport at the last minute, as you could easily miss your flight.

Try using carry-ons only for your holiday travels, but if you must use checked luggage, use a tracking device in it to help your airline locate your bag. This is an important one of the 16 holiday tips.

Consider carry-on only:
If your holiday journey is short enough, seriously consider leaving your checked luggage at home and only take a carry-on plus your personal item. That way you’ll avoid the lines at airport check-in, get to the airport security checkpoint more quickly, not worry about the airline losing your luggage, and avoid waiting for your luggage at the baggage claim carousel at your destination.

Use a tracking device in your checked luggage:
If you use checked luggage, you should use a tracking device. I strongly suggest that all air travelers also put a tracking device in their carry-on in case it has to be gate-checked. I prefer Apple Airtags for tracking my luggage because the Apple network of devices is approaching a billion, while their main competitor, Tile, is in the millions of devices. That means your bags will be more likely detected regularly by the network. I’ve had personal experience with Apple Airtags. My checked luggage went to the wrong carousel, but its Airtag allowed me to find and retrieve it quickly.

If you’re traveling internationally, be sure you have local emergency numbers and toll-free numbers. Don’t forget your cellphone charger and an international calling plan.

Collect every potential emergency phone number:
Make sure you have the toll-free and local phone numbers for your airlines, hotels, rental car company, etc., in case of a needed change in plans or an emergency. If you’re traveling internationally, it’s particularly important to get local, not toll-free, numbers for each company, because cell phones generally can’t use toll-free numbers in most countries other than their own.

Cellphone charger:
There is no doubt that cell phones/smartphones are fantastic tools for travelers unless they run out of power. Therefore, before you close your carry-on bag, make sure you have your cellphone charger packed carefully in your carry-on. If you’re traveling internationally, ensure you have an adapter for your charger that will work at your destination(s). In addition, I suggest travelers bring a portable battery-powered charger for their cell phones in an emergency. Don’t forget to fully charge your cellphone and battery-powered charger each night.

Cellphone international plan:
If you’re traveling internationally on the holidays, make sure you have an international cellphone calling plan to keep your costs for calls and internet data as low as possible.

If your holiday trip is international, be sure of your documents:
Even if you’re not going to travel until December, ensure your documents for your destination are complete, including passport, visas, vaccination documentation if needed, pre-registration, etc. In addition, just because your passport hasn’t expired yet, don’t assume it will meet your destination’s requirements. Check to make sure you don’t need a new passport.

Don’t wrap your holiday presents until you get to your destination.

Holiday presents:
If you’re bringing holiday presents on your journey, don’t wrap them until you arrive at your destination. I’ve stood in line at TSA security during holiday travel when they’ve opened numerous packages, destroying the wrapping, because they had contents TSA agents couldn’t identify via the x-ray units. Make it easy for TSA at the airport to speed you through their checkpoint.

If you’re lucky, your holiday trip will go smoothly, without a hitch, but you need to be prepared for problems, cancellations, and frankly, anything. Stay calm, cool, and collected if problems occur. If you’re prepared, almost every problem can be solved. Send me your follow-on suggestions for these 16 holiday tips.

(Image: Southwest Airlines B737 landing at Philadelphia International Airport. Copyright © 2018 NSL Photography. All Rights Reserved.)

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