It’s hard to believe that the holidays are just around the corner – and, with that, some of the busiest travel days of the year. If you have personal or business travel planned during this hectic season, check out these helpful hints for surviving the holiday travel rush with your sanity—and holiday spirit—intact (our gift to you!):
- Avoid Peak Travel Dates: Major U.S. airports are extremely busy during Thanksgiving week – so even if you’re traveling to a country that doesn’t celebrate the holiday, you should take precaution. If you can, avoid traveling the Wednesday before and the Sunday after Thanksgiving – two of the busiest domestic travel days of the year. Instead, book your departure for the Monday or Tuesday before to avoid the dreaded Wednesday travel rush. If your schedule permits, try flying home on Friday when the masses have moved on from the airports to the shopping malls for Black Friday. The crowds pick up again on Saturday, peaking on Sunday, before leveling out on Monday. In December, avoid traveling on the Saturday before Christmas if possible as well as December 28th (the busiest day for both New Years and Christmas travel). Traveling on these less busy days helps lessen the stress of dodging crowds to avoid missing your flight.
- Allow Extra Time to get To the Airport: Airport officials suggest arriving at the airport two hours before domestic flight departures and three hours before an international flight. Keep in mind that a lot of travelers will be coming and going on the roads, so allow for extra time on the highways or public transportation (especially if you live in an urban area with heavy traffic volume). Of course, you should also be prepared for the unexpected, such as a flight delay due to inclement winter weather or overbooked flights.
- …And Through the Airport: Be ready for possible slowdowns in airport security lines. If you travel frequently, you’re probably accustomed to the TSA’s security measures; however, folks who rarely fly may be caught off guard. If possible, avoid getting into security lines behind people who look befuddled, passengers carrying gifts or families with children. To help keep the security line moving, remember these tips: Have your boarding pass and ID/passport easily accessible, make sure all your liquids are in a zip-top plastic bag and adhere to the 3-1-1 rule: liquids or gels limited to 3-ounce or smaller containers that can fit in a one-quart-size clear plastic zip-top bag; one bag per passenger. For more tips on how to breeze through airport security, check out our Travel Cheat Sheet on How to Get through Airport Security Faster.
- Be Carry-on Savvy: Unpredictable winter weather and increased volume at the airports can cause flight delays and cancelled connections – often the culprit of a lost luggage disaster. If you opt to carry-on your bag instead of checking it, there’s less room for error. However, packing for today’s overhead bin reality can be easier said than done. In addition to double checking your airline’s requirements, try thinking outside the box a bit. A lot of luggage styles waste space in favor of aesthetics, which is why many packing experts recommend a duffel bag or even a rolling duffel bag as a viable alternative to a rolling suitcase. Why? If your flight is full (a common occurrence during the holidays) and you’re not amongst the first on the plane, a flexible bag can fit into any odd space available between roller bags in overhead bins.
Don’t forget: Keep copies of travel documentation – such as your passport and contact information for your company’s travel risk management provider – in your carry-on bag, along with any necessary medication that you wouldn’t want to get lost with checked luggage.
- Get Vaccinated: Tis the season to be healthy! If you’re traveling internationally, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your doctor or travel medicine specialist at least 4-6 weeks before you leave. They can make sure you get the proper vaccinations and medicines in preparation for your trip. The most commonly recommended vaccination in the winter, whether you’re traveling or not, is the influenza vaccine. Yearly vaccination is the best way to protect yourself against the flu and makes you 60% less likely to need flu treatment from a healthcare provider. Remember to get vaccinated at least two weeks before your trip since that’s how long it takes for antibodies to develop in the body. Staying healthy doesn’t stop there – be sure to take other steps to prevent illness such as washing your hands as well as carrying disinfecting wipes with you to remove germs from commonly-touched areas like airplane tray tables. Check out our post on staying healthy during the holiday travel season for a full list of helpful tips.
- Be Nice: We know that even the jolliest of holiday travelers can have an off-day, especially when things don’t go as planned. But don’t forget to give your TSA agents, gate agents, flight attendants and even your fellow passengers some extra kindness this season. These workers put up with exceptionally high volume and cranky travelers during this time of year, so a little bit of courtesy can go a long way…and keep you off Santa’s naughty list!
For additional tips, check out our post highlighting more ways to make holiday travel easier.
Happy Holidays and Safe Travels!