Holiday season air travel tips from eXpectdelaYs.com
Hey! Where did summer go?! It's the holiday season already! For many people this means they will be doing some traveling. Whether you are a seasoned traveler or just a traveler for the season, whatever you are planning, you
will probably have a more enjoyable time if your trip goes as smoothly as possible.
While I can't promise that you won't have a flight delay or that you
won't wait in an airport security checkpoint line for a few minutes longer than you would like, or
find yourself in a little traffic, I can offer you a few tips to
help minimize your travel delays, and if a delay arises, make it a little more pleasant. I'll also throw in a few tips to make any trip be a more pleasant one, just for good measure!
Be flexible and save time! If you have
any flexibility in your travel dates, you can decrease your chance of
flight delays, airport security screening wait times and other issues
that happen on high volume days. You may also save some money
traveling on less popular days and times as well. If you can arrive earlier (or later) than everyone else and leave later, you can avoid the crowds and have a better chance of avoiding delays and hassles. Traveling on Christmas Day, New Year's Day and Thanksgiving, or the day right after Thanksgiving tend to be the least crowded, because everyone wants to get to their destination before the holiday and stick around for a day or two afterward. Generally, traveling Saturday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday
are likely to be the least crowded, and possibly have the best
prices as well, however this doesn't always work during the holiday season since the holidays themselves dictate when people will want to travel. Both Christmas and New Years fall on Friday this year, so Thursday will probably be a pretty popular travel day. However, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, New Years or Christmas might be a good choice, if you don't mind leaving before the weekend is over.
Be flexible and save money on flights! If you are flexible in your travel times and dates, you also may be able to get less expensive flights. Check out sites like Hotwire.com, where, you choose the days that you want to travel, your origin and destination airports, and they may offer you a cheap option on a flight, what they call a "Hot Rate". The only catch is that they don't tell you the time or airline until you purchase the ticket, but all you have to do is be willing to fly on a flight that has 0-1 stops each way (departing and returning) and a scheduled departure between 6am and 10pm and they will give you a flight with confirmed seating -- you'll never fly standby and you'll save money! Hotwire now will not offer you these special rates on all itineraries or dates, and you probably have a better chance of getting one if you are booking close to your departure date. You also have the choice of picking a flight the usual way – you will know the airline and flight times before you pay – but you will not get the big savings. If you like to shop around for prices before you buy, then I recommend Kayak.com. They don't sell airline tickets or hotel rooms themselves, but they do search a whole bunch of other travel, hotel and airline sites for you, to help you find the best price. Check Kayak.com out to Find Cheap Flights from 100+ Sites with One Click.
Be flexible and save on hotels! Hotwire.com is also a great place to go to save money on hotels. You choose the day and place that you need a hotel room, and they will give you a list of hotels by star rating to choose from. The only catch is that you won't know the exact hotel until you pay, but you will know the hotel's star rating before you buy, so you have some idea what to expect. I have used their service many times and it has always worked out well. Same as for airline tickets, if you want to shop around before you buy, then let Kayak.com look at a bunch of web sites for you to find hotel availability and the best hotel rates. Follow this link to have Kayak.com find you great hotel rates and Discount Hotels
Be prepared, and don't wait in line! If you are not planning on checking baggage on your flight, and are only going to have a “carry on” then it really pays to check-in for your flight online before you head to the airport. Just go to your airline's web site, and there is generally a link for online check in on their home page. You can select your seats and print out your boarding pass at home, and then just head straight to the airport security screening line. Just be sure that you have checked the limitations on how large your carry on bag may be (each airline has this information posted on their web site), and what is allowed through security screening and any special preparations that need to be made (such as all of your liquids being in 3 oz bottles in a 1 quart plastic bag). Check the TSA's website for up-to-date restrictions on what you can bring through the airport security checkpoint, and your airline's website for restrictions on the size and number of carry on items allowed per person.
Pay for your checked bags in advance and save some money! Most of the major airlines that charge for checked baggage offer a discounted price if you pay these baggage fees when you check in online. Read this article about checked baggage fees from eXpectdelaYs.com to learn more.
Check for flight delays! Before you leave for the airport, check on your flight to make sure there has been no change in the flight schedule or a flight delay. That's easy to do right from our home page, http://expectdelays.com. Either choose the city you are traveling from or use the Flight Status search box on our home page. Also don't forget to always check all the other factors that might delay you such as security wait times, traffic, parking availability and weather before you leave the house, so you will know if you have to allow some extra time. You can check all these thing at eXpectdelaYs.com also! Unfortunately, not all of this information is available everywhere, but if it is, we will provide it for you. Also, check out our Tips for Avoiding Air Travel Delays for additional suggestions.
Dress for the Security Screening! The security screening process is much easier if you are dressed appropriately. Remember that anything with metal may set off the alarms and cause you to have to undergo a more extensive search. So either don't wear a belt or take it off, put your metal watch on once you have already gone through security, put your phone (and clip or holder) in your carry-on bag and reconsider any large metal jewelry or hair clips. Wear shoes that are easy to remove. Ladies, there are nightmare stories out there about underwire bras setting off the metal detectors and causing people to undergo more intensive searches, so you may want to consider this as well if you were planning on wearing one that contains metal. Also, put that money clip in your carry-on bag as well, and take that change out of your pockets. You may want to keep the paper money in your pocket, though. Just remember to bring your photo ID and keep it handy, as you will need to show it to the security personnel; and keep your boarding pass out as they will want to see this as well. Oh, and finish that water or other beverage that you are drinking because they won't let you take that through either. Some exceptions are made for substances like baby formula, breast milk or juices for children. You can read the details about traveling with formula, breast milk or juice on the TSA web site.
Pack a little snack! If you encounter a delay, especially if you are unfortunate enough to get stuck in traffic or are sitting inside a plane waiting to take off or waiting for a gate, you will be happy that you packed something to eat, such as an energy bar, fruit or a sandwich (that doesn't require refrigeration). I always make sure that I buy a bottle of water once I am through security as well, so that I always have something to drink. If you remain well hydrated and you aren't hungry, you will be able to better withstand travel and flight delays.
Pack a big snack! If you think you are going to get hungry on the flight you can either pack a sandwich to take with you or purchase something to go at one of the airport restaurants. You may be able to purchase something on the plane, however your selection may be limited, and they can run out.
Bring something to pass the time! Make sure you have your music or video player of choice, a book, magazine, computer or PDA so that you have something to do should you have a delay and on the flight. Don't forget to load your favorite games, books or movies on your portable device. Waiting is much more tolerable if you have something to pass the time.
Stay warm (or cool)! The temperature in the aircraft or airport may be very different than the temperature outside. Your flight can be miserable if you are cold while you sit there for hours, and some of the airlines have started to charge for blankets unless you are seated in first (or business) class. The easiest thing to do is dress in layers, or throw a light pullover or jacket in your carry-on bag. Personally, I usually wear a "wicking" tee shirt under a long sleeve shirt or pullover and also bring a jacket. I can quickly adjust my clothing to the ambient temperature and be comfortable in the plane and in the airport. Don't worry too much about fashion - you can return to your haute couture look when you arrive at your destination!
Keep the kids happy! You won't be happy if the kids aren't happy, and a long travel day is not something that may make the kids happy! Fortunately, many of the larger airports have kids' play areas or other diversions to let them burn off some steam. Check out the eXpectdelaYs.com guide to airport children's play areas for more information. Also, bring along some snacks for the kids, purchase some water bottles or juices once you get to the airport, and don't forget to bring along their favorite games or their iPod Touch, books or even a movie for them to watch on your computer, viewer or other portable device.
Keep yourself happy! There are things for adults to do in the airport, too. If you enjoy a nice handcrafted beer or a nice glass of wine while you are waiting for your flight, you are in luck. Airports have been adding bars over the recent years with nice wine and beer selections. Check out the eXpectdelaYs.com guide to airport wine bars for more information.
Don't get lost! If you are renting a car at you destination and you don't know your way around, save yourself some time and aggravation and be sure to plan ahead. Map the route from the airport to the hotel or your relative's house ahead of time, and to any destinations (restaurants, beaches, etc) that you might want to go to. Better yet, bring a GPS or rent a car with one. Bringing a map is also a good idea. The extra time and/or money invested before your trip will give you more time to have fun and spend with your friends and family on your vacation.
Stop that Growling Stomach! Investigate your dining choices ahead of time. If there is a restaurant that you would like to go to during a busy travel week, or on a Friday or Saturday night, or on a big holiday like New Year's Eve, save yourself from disappointment by making a reservation either before you leave or as soon as you get to your destination. Many restaurants take reservations on-line, but if they don't, with long-distance charges now cheap, spend a few cents and give them a call.
A little research goes a long way! Check out attractions and activities at your destination ahead of time in either a travel guide book or on-line. If you have a few ideas of places you want to go to and things that you would like to do, you'll be able to spend more time actually doing them!
We can't guarantee you a delay free holiday or vacation, but with these tips you should be able to spend more time enjoying your time away! Remember, if you eXpect delaYs, you can beat them!
Have a safe and happy holiday season!