The holiday travel season is upon us! However, before we can enjoy an adult beverage while crackling fires warm our frigid toes, we must make it to our chosen destination. Which means it’s time to be part of the solution (not the problem) when slogging through the long lines at the airport. This is GO time people! This is what we practice for. Lots of flights, travelers, emotional children, luggage, smaller planes, delayed flights, crowded airports, weather delays, and YOU can either be a help or a hindrance - depending on your attitude toward it all. Generally speaking, you need to plan for the worst and be hopeful for the best.
The following list is a general guideline for domestic travel within the country of your primary residence. If traveling internationally over the holidays, pay extra attention to passports, ID's and currency. And, don't leave one of your children behind like they did in the movie Home Alone. Here's a little advice on how to be a model traveler.
Inevitably there will be a moment - most likely in line for security, holding your shoes in your hands with a forty pound carry on bag dangling from your neck - where you will ask yourself, “Is this really worth it???” That’s why, at all times, you must remember why you are putting yourself through this. You are traveling over the busiest travel period to be with family and friends. Everything that happens from the time you leave your home to the moment you arrive at your destination is negligible. The point is to arrive somewhere not to be in the frustrating situation crowded places of transport can often put us through. So… take it all in stride and do your best to go with the flow.
CONFIRM YOUR ITINERARY
Car rental, flight, hotel. These are the biggies. A few days before your scheduled travel day, call the companies and MAKE SURE your itinerary details are correct. Be particular about the correct spelling of your traveler's first and last names (unless you love spending extra time going through security). All names must match EXACTLY what is printed on your ID.
I usually use my passport as my ID on all trips (even within the US). I do this because it is a universally accepted form of ID and because TSA screeners can easily check them. No matter where I am in the world, my passport is the best way to identify myself. Also, even if you're traveling to Poughkeepsie, pulling that little blue book your of your breast pocket just feels slightly more sophisticated.
HAVE YOUR DOCUMENTS READY
Check in before you arrive at the airport. Once upon a time in the dark ages, we needed to print our tickets AT THE AIRPORT! Can you imagine? The horror. Well, thankfully, times have changed. Now you can check in from the toilet and have your ticket ready. Or, if you’re old school, you can print it out and put it in a "travel day" folder that you will be bringing with you - NERD. But most of us these days just screen shot that bad boy and flash it on our phone whenever needed.
This is a careful balance of need vs. want. Remember, some airlines (most actually) will charge you to check luggage. Consider the ramifications of checking your suitcases. Pack light and for function on your trip. No more than two pairs of shoes, (the heaviest you should be wearing on your feet during your travel day), etc. Weigh your checked luggage at home. All airlines have a weight restriction. Keep your bags as light as possible not just to avoid a fee, but remember, if you’re not checking it you will still be lugging it around with you. A good rule of thumb is to only pack what you can COMFORTABLY carry without assistance.
24 hours before your departure time is a critical part of the travel day timeline that is often overlooked. For instance, if you’re loading the family into the car for a road trip, this day is where you can solve potentially time-crippling issues like getting the car serviced, filling up the tires, filling the gas tank, etc. And if you’re flying, this is the time to look over your "before I leave the house" checklist. The night before travel day, I place all critical items directly ON my packed suitcase. Wallet, passport, travel folder (I know I’m a NERD, deal with it), etc.
I get bored on planes because I usually can't sleep. So I always bring the following: a small snack (protein bar or nuts), breath mints and gum (for both me and sometimes my seat mate), a newspaper or magazine, my iPhone (with a movie on it), and a pad of paper and a pen. After I get through security, I buy a bottle of water. Again, I’m not a fan of turning myself into a pack animal while trudging my way toward my gate. Pack lightly. You’ll thank me when you do.
Weigh your options carefully on how you're going to get to and from the airport. This is not the best time to rely on ANYONE else to drive you. Either drive yourself and park in long term or get a car service. In some major airports Uber and Lyft have been hit with heavy restrictions when it comes to dropping off and picking up. Spending the extra cash for a professional driver can give you some peace of mind, and a little piece of mind goes a long way during holiday travel season.
If you are driving, consider the traffic patterns of both your departure and arrival destinations. Try not to be part of the crowd. If you are flying, arrive AT LEAST 90 minutes prior to your departure time for domestic and 3 hours prior for an international flight. I know you don’t want to spend extra time at the airport but a buffer of thirty minutes of peaceful unhurried airport time is so much better than rushed, crazed, “We’re not gonna make our flight!” time. Trust me.
Going through security is so much easier if you don't pack liquids in your carry-on; avoid them if you can. Shoes go directly on the belt, laptops go in a separate bin (by themselves) and you must take off your coat or bulky sweater. Keep your boarding pass and ID out and available through security until AFTER the metal detector. Slip on shoes are helpful but no bare feet...think of the germs on that floor...gross.
FLIGHT DELAY DETECTORS
Number One reason for a flight delay? Weather. Mother nature can really mess up the holidays; it is one of the biggest issues for airlines. Mechanical issues is another reason why a flight can be delayed. Remember, finding a mechanical issue BEFORE the plane takes off is a GOOD THING. Be patient for mechanical delays. And finally, scheduling of arriving crew and airplanes can get a bit tricky!
MAKE SURE YOUR PHONE IS CHARGED
If all else fails - if you find yourself in a long line, waiting for your connecting flight or just simply waiting because your buffer panned out - you can always entertain yourself with your phone. However, make sure it’s got juice! Nothing is worse than a low energy bar on your black mirror when you’re trying to pretend you’re not surrounded by crying babies, complaining passengers, and fed up airport employees.
Keep your cool and spread the positive smiley love! Ticket agents, flight attendants and your fellow travelers will notice and appreciate your positive attitude and, sometimes, might even reward you for the brief spark of sunshine you give their day.
Have a safe and happy holiday travel season and I’ll see you in line at security!