Holidays are the time for joyful cocktails, fresh pine trees, family fun, and of course, Christmas magic. Except when you’re stuck in twelve hours of traffic, or late for your flight. At such moments, Christmas magic surely becomes a cruel, commercially-exploited joke.
Thankfully, smart planning can save you from the unique hell of holiday travel. With less than two weeks to spare, we suggest you read up before running to catch that cab.
Compare Prices to Save Big
To no one’s surprise, travel companies are sure to jack prices on mass holiday travel. Do your research to avoid overpaying. Check websites like Kayak and Wanderu, which allow you to cross-compare bus, train, and airline prices. More, avoid traveling on peak days like December 23rd and 24th, when prices are sure to skyrocket. Leaving late at night or early morning on less-traveled days will save money without wasting PTO.
Buy Travel Security
Upon buying a plane, train, or bus ticket, you’ll likely be asked to purchase travel security, guaranteeing full-refunds or the ability to change travel free of charge. While the extra $20-70 bucks is a bummer, holiday travel is all about planning for the unexpected. Whether a winter storm hits or the office keeps you late, this security is well worth it.
Nothing is more satisfying than skipping long airport lines, so do yourself a solid and check-in on your airline website before arriving at the airport.
Capitalize on Your Smartphone
The “arrive two hours early” rule is a gem, until it’s not. Airport lines always seem to surprise, so avoid arriving too early or too late with travel apps like Flight Status, which gives you real-time updates on delays, baggage numbers and more, and GateGuru, which gives you approximate times you’ll spend in security. And make sure you have Cricket unlimited data so you can stream all your favorite movies and games—just in case you get stuck waiting.
Hauling heavy luggage is not only stressful, but expensive. Most airlines charge for baggage over a certain weight, so save some cash and stress by slimming down your suitcase. Check the weather at your travel destination ahead of time and limit to one outfit per day. Plus, family’s family—we’re sure they won’t mind if you repeat one holiday sweater.
Nothing’s worse than a hangry traveler, except maybe a hangry ten-year-old traveler, or a $10 airport energy bar. Keep spirits (and sugar levels) high by stocking up on snacks and water before leaving home. To avoid messes, stick with packaged, dry snacks like bars, apples, or pretzels, rather than crumbly chips or melty chocolate.
Use Digital Direction Apps
Obvious as this may sound, if you’ve got a non-millennial driving, be sure to snatch that map ASAP. Retro as memorized directions or paper maps may be, avoiding digital directions amidst holiday traffic is just silly.
If you’re flying, carrying on large gifts not only adds to baggage costs, but also wastes time in security lines. TSA strongly advises shipping gifts, especially those that are wrapped, or waiting to wrap until you arrive.
Avoid Public Wi-Fi Networks
When waiting in airports or bus terminals, open Wi-Fi networks will prove tempting. Yet mindless Internet play is not worth potential identity theft; with public Wi-Fi, you run that risk. Highly populated travel spaces are full of free ad-hoc networks created to hack your usernames and passwords. Be wary of public networks, even if they require a password, and read up on how to stay safe when using public Wi-Fi.
Take a Deep Breath
If you’re traveling over the holidays, you’re going to face unexpected challenges, you’re going to get stressed, and you’re also (ultimately) going to arrive. Holding realistic expectations and forgiving yourself and travel partners if things get heated is key. Remember that once you’ve gone over the river and through the woods, however hectic that ride may be, you’ll have time to relax and be merry with the ones you love. Breathe in, and breathe out—you got this!