Posted by Sean Thompson

Surviving Holiday Travel

Travel is stressful at any time but when combined with holidays, it packs a double punch. Every holiday season we see images of travellers stranded at airports, sometimes for lengthy periods. Cancellations and delays are common during winter months in North America. We’ve all probably got a holiday horror travel story or two. These eventually turn into good chuckles when families are gathered together for the holidays.

You’ll never have control over delayed flights but let’s look at some of the stuff you can control. Proper planning can ease your stress and help you get through anything your trip can throw at you.

BOOKING YOUR FLIGHT
We all search for low fares but these flights often have a few stops increasing your chances for delays, cancellations and lost luggage. For holiday travel it is well worth forking out a few extra dollars to book an early, non-stop flight to your destination, if possible. It also eliminates deboarding and reboarding hassles.

PACKING
Keep it organized and keep it light. If you can possibly get everything into a carry-on, do so. You’ll eliminate luggage fees and any possibility of lost luggage. In your carry-on, pack a toothbrush, toothpaste, a washcloth, medications and your passport. Keep your liquids in an easy-to-grab plastic bag. Don’t forget earplugs to tune out a noisy airport and plane. Throw in an eyemask to really block it all out. Power up your devices before you leave home. There will never be enough electrical outlets at any airport during holiday travel. You may want to consider a portable charger. Download a book you’ve wanted to read and a movie or two, to keep you amused while you wait. If you’re travelling with kids, don’t forget their filled sippy cups and nutritious snacks. Take a picture of your luggage and contents. This will help if it gets lost. Label your bags and try to distinguish them easily. The ribbon trick is largely overdone so maybe try colored labels.

SELECT YOUR SEAT, PRINT YOUR BOARDING PASS
Do this from home and save time. You can check in 24 hours before take-off. You may be able to snag a better seat if one becomes available. Anything you can do ahead of time is going to make your trip smoother. Check out www.seatguru.com. Follow your airport and scheduled flight on social media.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
If you possibly can, have someone drive you to the airport or grab a cab. Just getting to the airport can be stressful so take this off your shoulders if possible. Besides, you can avoid the airport parking fees. Allow plenty of time. If you are flying domestic, get their two hours before takeoff; for international, allow three.

GETTING THROUGH SECURITY
Or the jackpot of all delays…this line is going to be long and slow. This is the reason you need to get to the airport early! Security is a frustrating experience now because it is so thorough. You can do a few things to get through quicker. If you are bringing your laptop, have it out and ready to load into the x-ray tray. Keep your allowed liquids accessible and packaged together. Don’t wrap gifts because they will likely get unwrapped. Think gift cards. And we already said pack your bag in an organized fashion because it will save you time. Take your footwear off.

DELAYED, CANCELLED or OVERBOOKED
This is every traveller’s worst nightmare. Program your phone with your airline’s contact numbers. Everyone is agitated. While waiting in line you can be on the phone to an airline rep and get the job done. Check out the next flight app and know what your options are. You can also asked to be booked with another airline, which is an option that is not routinely offered. If you find yourself in an overbooked situation, this could be an opportunity to get yourself some goodies, maybe even a free ticket or an upgrade. Negotiate.

CHILL
Remember that everyone is fighting the same frustration, including the airline reps, who also want to be at home with their families. Explore the airport’s resources. They likely have playrooms, good restaurants, maybe a yoga room…You’ll discover a sense of holiday camaraderie infusing airports and planes, if you open yourself up to receive it.

Happy holidays to everyone and especially to those travelling. We wish you on-time flights and great family time.