It’s a well-known fact that the most wonderful time of the year is also one of the busiest travel seasons. Knowing this, you’ve hung your holiday travel plans on the metaphorical chimney with care. You’ve booked your flights well in advance, avoiding peak travel days; the brave among you may have even booked your travel the day OF the holiday. And you’ve resigned yourself to getting up before the sun to avoid congestion and to be ahead of potential delays. You’ve sleighed building an itinerary – and you can further your success with some easy preparation.
Here’s what you can do leading up to and the day of your flight to ensure a joyeux noel:
If possible, par down your holiday ware and travel with just a carry-on. Foregoing checked luggage cuts out aggravating extra costs as well as the stress of claiming your bags once you land.
To downsize your luggage needs, ship your gifts to their final destination ahead of time! Or take it a step further by ordering your presents online, having them delivered to the host’s house (with their knowledge and OK), and wrapping them upon arrival.
Bulky winter clothing can take up valuable real estate in your luggage; consider wearing your heaviest items when you travel to clear up some space. Also, though it’s tempting to have options, avoid packing multiple outfits for the same day. Instead, pack a few clothing staples to mix and match pieces during your stay.
While there are no ‘standard’ carry-on dimensions, the most common sizes are either 22 x 9 x 14 inches or 27 x 21 x 14 inches, including handle and wheels. Different airlines have different standards and policies, so be sure to verify what’s accepted by your carrier.
Pack an Airport Survival Kit
While too much time before your flight is obviously better than not enough, a long airport wait can be stressful. Preparing for the worst-case scenario – frustrated co-travelers, hunger, and boredom – allows you to create the best possible outcome.
Some survival kit must-haves include: earplugs or headphones (bonus if they’re noise-cancelling), snacks, and both electronic and non-electronic entertainment. We recommend keeping your devices to a minimum; recent changes to TSA carry-on and electronics screening procedures means more hassle, and potentially longer processing times, during security checks. But with that being said…
Charge your Devices
If you’re going to bring electronics, make sure they’re fully charged. The airport has a finite number of outlets, and the odds may be against you during the holiday rush.
If you’re relying on your phone for flight updates and boarding, it might be wise to invest in a portable charger or power bank. If your phone battery drains quickly (and cold weather will kill your battery faster, FYI), then a power bank can be a game-changer.
Keep the Essentials On-Hand
Any and all necessary items – medication, identification, emergency contacts – should be kept in your carry-on. That way, in the unfortunate event of a delay or lost luggage, your trip isn’t derailed by the loss of crucial items.
Pro-Tip: In addition to personal contacts, your emergency contact list should include phone numbers for all travel-related points of contact: the airport(s) you’re flying in/out of, customer service for the airline(s) you’re flying with, the hotel(s) you’re staying at, etc. This way, if your holiday travel plans are disrupted, you can make arrangements and avoid chain-reaction disturbances
Holiday Travel Day-Of Musts:
Check your Flights:
Before leaving the house and regardless of whether your destination’s a tropical paradise or winter wonderland, make sure your flight is on schedule. Your plane might be coming from an area with weather or scheduling delays, and the due diligence can save you the headache.
Check in Online:
Many airlines allow online or mobile check-ins, some as much as 24-hours before your scheduled departure. Doing so allows you to skip the airport’s check-in counter and bypass one stressful element of the process. In addition, earlier check-ins may reduce your odds of being bumped from an overbooked flight, as some airlines prioritize passengers by check-in time regardless of flight class.
However, in the event your flight IS overbooked, brush up on your rights regarding bumped flights and traveler compensation.
Leave Earlier than Anticipated:
Under normal circumstances, it’s recommended to arrive two hours before a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight. Weather, road congestion, parking difficulties, and shuttle service delays can all bog down your airport arrival.
It might seem excessive to leave three or four hours early, but better to have that cushion time before your departure than to feel frazzled and stressed that you’re going to miss your flight.
Arrange Airport Transportation:
Removing transportation to the airport from the holiday travel equation can be a huge stress-reliever. Not only will you avoid heavy parking fees, ditching your car can also add flexibility to your return trip. If your flight gets delayed, you have the option of taking the next available flight to the next closest airport.
Consider scheduling a pick-up by an airport shuttle or ride-sharing service, taking public transportation, or getting a ride from a generous friend (who should definitely receive a small thank-you gift).
Travel plans can change quickly; your best chance of staying ahead of changes is by knowing about them ASAP. Luckily, there is an array of mobile resources that can keep you abreast of updates.
Many airlines have their own travel apps, which will alert you to itinerary changes and airport delays. In addition, there are a plethora of free travel apps that provide updates on anything from airport security wait times and gate information to where your flight currently is on-route (though potentially not all in the same app).
If you’re a client of Atlas Travel, you receive special access to our all-inclusive travel app, AMIGo! AMIGo goes far beyond traditional itinerary management apps, alerting travelers to flight disruptions and allowing in-app travel service bookings. In addition to an array of professional travel resources, AMIGo offers numerous ways to personalize your trip. Learn more about the app here.
If you’re social media-inclined, Twitter is an excellent resource for as-they-happen travel updates. Many airports and airlines have established and well-maintained Twitter feeds for sharing travel disruptions with travelers. You’ll not only find the most recent updates on Twitter first, but travelers may experience quicker responses to customer service questions here than through more traditional platforms.
Consider setting up push notifications from relevant Twitter accounts during your trip. This guarantees that you won’t miss a relevant announcement, and you can always disable notifications once your holiday travel is complete.
While you may not be able to control holiday travel conditions, you can successfully navigate them! A little preparation goes a long way, and these tips will help you enjoy the holidays even when you’re still on route.
Happy holidays to all, and to all a good flight!