There’s nothing better than getting together with friends and family over the holidays; unfortunately, everyone else usually has the same idea. During this time when planning ahead is crucial, the following tips and tricks will help you minimize travel time and make the most of your holidays.
Finding the Deals: Go Online!
A large part of the holiday headache can be blamed on how expensive it is to travel. Procrastinating on travel plans is a sure way to cause extra stress and money, because everything will be booked. Plan ahead. If you don’t have far to go, buses and trains can be relatively cheap and many companies advertise deals online. Compare travel services to see who is offering the best sales during the holiday rush. Some websites combine services to save you money on multiple travel essentials, such as flights, hotels, and rental cars.
If you’re planning to fly, the simplest method for purchasing cheap tickets is to buy them as far in advance as possible. There are many websites online that make it easy for you to compare different airlines as well as different flights within a particular airline, such as Kayak. If you’re forced to buy a ticket last minute, a website like Priceline is a good place to look.
When to Travel
ALWAYS AVOID RUSH HOUR! Whether you’re on your way to the airport or to grandmother’s house, the influx of drivers over the holidays will ensure that rush hour will be insufferable. Avoid it at all costs! Try driving at night to avoid peak rush hours and allow plenty of extra time when driving to the airport to catch a flight.
When booking flights it’s important to know the busiest travel days and avoid them, such as the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. The Sunday after a major holiday is also usually busy and more expensive. It’s often cheaper and less crowded to fly on a weekday, though you will encounter business travelers so try a late morning or early afternoon flight to avoid the weekday rush.
How to Beat the Airport
Some of the biggest holiday mishaps have to do with the airport. With so many people traveling at the same time, delays are inevitable. Anticipate these delays and come prepared. Bring a book or some music. Enjoy a meal or a drink at the bar. Bring your laptop and watch a movie. Bring travel board games to keep the kids entertained. Delays are a nuisance, but they don’t have to ruin your holiday travel plans. Some tips to keep in mind:
■ Forget Parking: Take a taxi or car service for the quickest door-to-door service
■ Pack Light: Avoid the fees and added wait-time by packing a carry-on only
■ Check-in early: Most airlines will allow you to check-in online 24 hours ahead of time and print your boarding pass at home. Skip ahead straight to security!
■ Know what you can bring: Check the TSA website for the latest regulations before you pack
■ Be early: Check the airport’s website for an updated status on flights and wait times, then plan your airport arrival accordingly
■ Fly non-stop: You can’t miss your connecting flight if you only have one!
Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst
Traveling is expensive and requires a lot of planning. Unfortunately, the holiday months often have inclement weather, making it very easy for mother nature to ruin even the most well thought-out plan. Safeguard against unexpected cancellations by having some form of trip insurance that will cover lost luggage and flight/hotel reservations, just in case the unexpected happens.
Traveling this time of year can be frustrating, but there is no need to let stress overshadow the joy of the season. Early planning and anticipating roadblocks ahead of time will help ensure that you make it home in plenty of time to enjoy the holidays.
Santa drawing courtesy of Shutterstock