Holiday Travel by Air

Traveling for the holidays can bring with it a mix of emotions—from excitement to dread. Excited about seeing family and friends, but dreading the long lines at the airport, delays, and weather concerns.

Here are some suggestions on how to take the “dread” out of traveling.

Planning your Flights:

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  • Nonstop flights are your best option. Connecting flights may be cheaper, but you run the risk of weather-related delays that may cause you to miss a connection.  If you decide to book a connecting flight, avoid tight connections, in case you are delayed. Another suggestion is to have your flight connection in an airport with warmer weather.
  • Avoid flying on peak travel days (like the Wednesday before Thanksgiving or the Sunday after). Flying on the actual holiday itself will be less expensive and less crowded, but may not fit into your plans.
  • Early morning or late night flights usually mean fewer people at the airport. Flight statistics show early morning flights have a better on-time performance.
  • Reserve your seats in advance, especially if traveling with friends or family.
  • Check out some flight apps like GateGuru or Flight Status.  These will give you airport information and the status of your flight.
  • Factor in the cost of checked baggage fees charged by most airlines.

Airport Delays and Getting through Security:

Plan for Delays:

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  • Check on the status of your flight or any connecting flight prior to leaving for the airport. If your flight is substantially delayed, you will not be wasting time at the airport.  If the delay will affect your connection, you will have more time to re-book another flight.
  • Arrive at the airport earlier than normal to accommodate the lengthy lines.
  • Check in early for your flight and print your boarding passes before going to the airport. This can be done starting 24 hours prior to your departure.
  • If you encounter a significant delay in your flight and are not a member of the airline’s airport club, think about getting a 1-day airline pass (for about $50). This will allow you to relax in the airport lounge, and snacks and Wi-Fi are usually free.  Some airlines may even include free drinks.
  • Put the number of your hotel, car rental agency, and the airline in your cell phone. If your flight is canceled or delayed, call the airline directly for assistance on re-booking your flight, rather than waiting in line at the airport check-in counter.  Notify your hotel and car rental agency of your delay as well.
  • Make sure your cell phone and laptop are fully charged the night before your departure. Charging stations are available at most airports, but may be unavailable during busy holiday travel.
  • Be sure to pack your medications and other necessary toiletries in your carry-on bag. If there is a flight delay, you want to have access to these items.

Security Checkpoints:

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If you do not fly on a regular basis and are concerned about what to expect when going through security, there are ways to reduce this stress.  By being prepared, you can avoid holding up the line or having your personal items tossed into the “big dumpster”, because they are considered prohibited items.

If you are a more frequent traveler, look into joining TSA Pre√®. This will allow you to qualify for expedited screening—you will not have to remove your shoes, belt, light jacket, or your laptop and 3-1-1 liquid bag from your carry-on (there may be exceptions to this).  The cost is $85 to join and requires an in person interview, background check, and finger printing at the closest center to where you live.  Approval may be issued in 30 days, but due to possible delays, TSA recommends applying 10 to 12 weeks in advance of travel.  You can apply at TSA online.

For all other security lines, you will be required to remove your shoes and belt.  Avoid wearing large jewelry or metal items that may set off the alarm.

  • Follow the 3-1-1 TSA regulations regarding liquids. All liquids and gels must be in a 3.4 oz. container and fit in one quart size bag.  This needs to be removed from your carry-on bag.
  • Check your purse and pockets before going to the airport to make sure you have removed anything that could be subject to additional screenings or end up having to be removed and tossed. This includes scissors over 4″, pocketknives, lotions or hand soap over 3.4 oz., bottled water, and more.
  • Many airports have the full body scanner where you have to step inside and hold your hands in the air.  These are not intimidating and you are in and out in a flash.
  • Purchase your bottled water or coffee after you get through security checkpoints.
  • Wear shoes that are easy to get on and off while standing up.
  • Do not wrap Christmas presents—the TSA may unwrap them for further inspection– even those in checked bags. Think about either using gift bags or shipping your gifts in advance to save the hassle of carrying them.
  • Food items such as pies and cakes are allowed in your carry-on bags, but liquid items such as sauces, gravies, dips, soups, etc. will have to be in your checked baggage.

Have an Enjoyable Flight:

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To reduce the noise and help you relax, plan on bringing some earplugs or headphones.  Most airlines charge for meals on the plane, so pack some healthy snacks.  Check to see if your airline offers free non-alcoholic drinks. If not, plan on purchasing some bottled water after the security checkpoint to prevent dehydration during the flight.

Eating snacks and drinking liquids will help you maintain your energy.  If your flight is delayed, having some food will be a welcome relief.

For more travel insight, check out my book,

Know Before You Go: Traveling the U.S. and Abroad

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Know Before You Go:  Traveling the U.S. and Abroad by [Patterson, Stephanie Tehan]

Available on Amazon Book Store, Barnes & Noble or wherever books are sold.

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