Traveling in general isn't always fun, but it's especially miserable during the holidays. Long lines, long drives to the airport, and frequent delays make the process hard to endure. Here are our top ten tips and tricks for surviving holiday travel. [via]
Photo by Marina Avila
10. Actually Get to the Airport On Time
Leaving early is really the only surefire way to get to the airport on time without issue, but there are a few other things you can do. First of all, if you can avoid checking luggage you should. Checking bags can add around 90 minutes to your trip (in total), so avoiding checked luggage really cuts down on time. Printing your boarding pass online as soon as possible is also extremely helpful, especially if you haven't already been assigned your seats. If, despite your best efforts, you don't make it on time, make sure you know if your airline has formal or informal policies for late check-ins or missed flights. Sometimes, rules-be-damned, you're not as screwed as you may think you are. For more tips, check out how to always get to the airport on time.
9. Don't Drive Yourself
When the holidays roll around, lots of people are traveling and this makes for congested roads. If you have to go by car, it's best to have someone else drive you for a couple of reasons (whether it's a friend, family, or a taxi). First—assuming your driver is responsible—it'll help keep you on a schedule and feel obligated to be ready on time. Second, you won't drive as well if you're nervous about getting to the airport on time. Better to leave that job in the hands of someone who has less at stake and will drive responsibly in the Winter weather. Alternatively, you should consider taking public transportation if it's available to you. While most days you'll get there faster by car, on holidays you can sometimes save some time by taking the train or even the bus. If you're not sure what will be faster, check public transportation schedules online and you should be able to estimate the time it will take so you can compare.
8. Make Good Use of Your Smartphone
Your smartphone can be your best friend when traveling during the holiday. Basic functionality will let you access itineraries via email or your airlines mobile web site. For an overal better experience, however, you should be using TripIt (for iOS, Android, and Blackberry). It's a free webapp and smartphone app that manages your itinerary and makes getting your boarding pass much easier. In some cases it can even help you get a digital boarding pass so you don't need to print one at all. You can also use your smartphone as a way to look up gate information, as it frequently changes at a moments notice during the holiday season.
7. Get a Free First Class Upgrade
Traveling during the holidays is never a pleasant experience. You need to arrive earlier, security takes longer, and you're more likely to experience delays. If you're going to be stuck with a longer travel day, you might as well get comfortable. VideoJug offers some interesting ways to get yourself a free first class upgrade. While these tricks might not work so well for the entire family, if you're traveling home by yourself or with your significant other you might just be able to pull them off.
6. Ship Your Bags (and Food)
With high bag-checking fees, poor care, and sometimes even theft, you might be better off just shipping your bags home. This is especially useful if you're bringing any food or liquids. While you're not going to bring an entire Thanksgiving meal, it's generally much easier to ship it overnight than it is to deal with it on an airplane—assuming they even let you bring it on in the first place. While it may not be cost-effective in every situation, when it is it can save you a lot of time on your travel day.
5. Avoid Honeypot Rogue Wi-Fi Networks
Not all free Wi-Fi is good Wi-Fi, and even if you're on a good Wi-Fi network you want to make sure you do everything you can to stay safe. When you're out at the airport, however, there are a lot of free ad-hoc networks that people create for the purpose of listening for your usernames and passwords. With Firesheep it can be particularly easy. Be wary of the networks you choose and know the network you're signing on to before you start entering private information.
4. Prepare for Problems With Your Children
If you're traveling with your kids, you're probably aware of the difficulty. Aside from giving them distractions (like a video game, book, etc.) and reminding them not to make jokes about bombs or terrorism, you want to prepare for the worst. It always helps to keep a few plastic bags in your pocket in case the air sickness bag is missing or too hard to get to (gross, but true). It's also good to split up jobs between parents. For example, in the security line one parent can manage the luggage and the other can manage the kids. The more you plan for messes and split up the work the easier traveling will be.
3. Take a Benadryl
We're not suggesting anyone abuse any over-the-counter cold medicines, but the fact is, no flight is over faster than the one you sleep through. And with all the runny noses this season, you could be doing everyone a public service by not leaking rhinovirus out your nose during the entire flight. Bring a blanket and a pillow, ask for a cup of water as you board, and prepare for a nice nap after a harmless little antihistamine.
2. Make Your Own Custom Luggage Tags
There are a lot of ways to help identify luggage, but many of them have become a little too common. Tying a ribbon onto the handle or adding some sort of color to your bag isn't as unique as it used to be, but creating your own luggage tags is a way to ensure nobody's luggage will look too close to yours. At travel and department stores, you can usually find blank luggage tags that either laminate a piece of paper or have an open slot for a custom tag. Once you have those, just make a design on your computer that's unique to you and print it out. If you want to have truly unique tags, generate a QR code and add it to your tags. This way if there's any dispute you can simply scan the code with your smartphone to reveal that the bag belongs to you.
1. Avoid Delays When Going Through Security
Because of the extreme security measures now in place, getting through quickly is basically impossible. You can, however, expedited this process by doing as much preparation as you can ahead of time. First of all, if you're traveling with a laptop you either want to have it out and ready to load into the x-ray tray or purchase a TSA checkpoint-friendly laptop bag so you don't have to remove it at all. You'll also want to have your allowed liquids in one easy-access bag or pouch so you're not busy sorting through your bag. If you're bringing any gifts home, don't wrap them—especially in any foil-based wrapping paper. If you wrap your gifts, they'll probably end up getting unwrapped by security. Finally, be sure to pack neatly. If your bag does get searched—and it happens to everyone at some point—you'll save yourself time if it's packed well. If it's messy, and the delicate balance you've created just to get the suitcase to close is upset, you're going to need to spend a lot more time repacking after security's searched your luggage.