I've always enjoyed traveling around the holidays. I really love seeing decorations around the world and how different they are from my Southern California lights on palm trees. Let's face it though, holiday travel is not easy. It has always struck me as "crazy" when I see the insane TSA security lines and hear stories about the airport traffic and lack of parking around the busiest flying time of the year. If you are going to travel during the "season of crazies", here are some tips to help you retain a little bit of your sanity:
Plan Ahead and Do Your Research! Make your reservations well in advance and pick your flights carefully...if you have to connect, try to pick a connecting airport where the weather might cooperate a little better...in December, ALWAYS choose a connection in Dallas or Atlanta over Chicago or Minneapolis! It's just smart! Be sure to make your seat assignments at the same time you buy your ticket if the airline's policy allows. And, this is a time when spending a little bit extra to have pre-assigned seating is worth the investment.
Pack Light, Pack Light, Pack Light! You already know how I feel about packing light, but over the holidays it becomes even more important. The less you have to worry about schlepping through the crowded airports, the better. Plus, you can save huge amounts of time, money and stress by fitting your things into an easy-to-maneuver carry- on bag. If you do check luggage, be sure to keep the essentials like medications and important documents with you - just in case!
Don't get "Hangry" When your tummy is growling, your mind can't think straight, and you could unknowingly get in the wrong line, take a wrong turn, or snap at an innocent flight attendant! Pack some healthy snacks so you and your family will not have to rely on the kindness of strangers if you end up sitting on the tarmac for hours. You will thank me later!
Ship gifts ahead or give gift cards this year. TSA suggests to always ship wrapped gifts to your destination, or wait until you reach your destination to wrap them. They will have to unwrap and inspect any gift that they can't identify in your carry-on luggage. Plus, you don't want to have to struggle with a heavy suitcase full of gifts through the airport if you are forced to run to make a tight connection
Plan ahead and leave plenty of extra time. Leave home for the airport at least an extra hour ahead of time to allow for traffic, parking, check-in and security delays. And, when booking your flights, try to avoid any super tight connections. If you only have 45 minutes between flights in the connecting airport, you could be in big trouble if your first flight is delayed a little. It's much less stressful to find a nice bar or coffee shop in the airport to kill some extra time.
Inhale and Exhale! The chatty neighbor on the airplane who takes up your armrest, the cancelled and delayed flights and the luggage that disappeared between airports will all make for great stories over dinner when you finally make it to your destination and are surrounded by your loved ones. Just breathe, keep your sense of humor and try to let the frustration go.