By Chris Dato • October 22, 2014
Travel during the holidays is the definition of misery for many people. Nothing is better at getting your tinsel in a tangle than crowds of tired travelers, understaffed check-in counters, and invasive security checkpoints. However, these are often necessary evils in order to enjoy being home for the holidays. We don’t think you have to sacrifice one for the other though, so we have put together a list of the top 12 tips for holiday air travel to save you time, money, and peace of mind, as you embark on your holiday excursion.
Your cellphone is one of the most important tools is your travel utility belt. The number of problems that can be solved using just this handheld device is staggering, and when you are away from home it can easily become your safety blanket. Unfortunately, the battery is going to drain more quickly as a result of the increased use. Remember to bring a charging case or a portable battery charger, so that you can charge your device on the fly.
Small Screen Entertainment
Instead of playing $3 for headphones so you can squint at a tiny TV 4 rows ahead of you, bring your own entertainment. Load your tablet with entertainment options like movies, TV shows, and games. Now you have a library of personalized selections available at your own convenience, and for free! This is an especially effective way to pacify little ones, who are even less excited about sitting in the same spot for 5 hours as you are.
Cover your App
Download travel apps to your smartphone to help navigate problematic travel tasks like airport parking, TSA check points, and unfamiliar terminals. Apps like FlightStatus let you check to see if your plane is on time, and GateGuru will even let you know which in-airport food options are available and where. They also have apps for arranging hotel and transportation accommodations, finding the best price on gasoline, and even locating the nearest restroom open to the public!
Pack like a Pro
With almost every airline charging for checked bags, it is more important than ever to pack efficiently. Use military-style packing techniques to fit all of your belongings into a carry-on bag, if possible. This means rolling your clothes up instead of folding them, in order to minimize surface area. Knowing your airlines specific luggage allowances is also essential. Many airlines allow you one carry-on bag and one personal item, which include backpacks and purses.
When traveling for the holidays, transporting the gifts can often be a nuisance. Even if you choose to check the presents, the wrapping is usually ruined during the search process. Avoid all of these headaches by shipping the gifts to your destination ahead of time. To take advantage of the cheapest shipping rate, plan this step early and use ground shipping. The longer shipping period will be inconsequential as long as they show up before the big day, and you can save a few dollars and have one less thing to worry about. Similarly, have gifts that are purchased online shipped directly to your final destination.
The list of things your cellphone can do is huge, and constantly expanding. But did you know that you can use your phone to skip the Disneyland-esque line queue at the ticketing counter? Check-in for your flight and obtain an electronic boarding pass all from your smartphone, without ever having to step foot in line. Not only will this tip save you crucial time in a situation where it is at a premium, but you will no longer have to worry about misplacing your boarding pass.
Underdress for the Occasion
Traveling is about practicality and efficiency above all else. The days of dawning a suit and tie for a flight are long gone. Unless you are one of the Kardashians, you should have to worry about looking camera ready at the airport. Don’t wear excessive amounts of clothing, as they will only serve to slow you down in the security lines. Avoid jewelry, belts, and accessories, and always go with slip-on shoes. Keep your outfit simple and comfortable, since you will be sitting in it for the next couple of hours.
Buy Early, Fly Early
We all know the old adage that the early bird gets the worm. Well, as it turns out, he also enjoys the luxury of reasonably priced plane tickets and less crowded airport terminals. Book flights far in advance in order to get the best rate. According to a study conducted by CheapAir.com, booking 54 days ahead of time will, on average, get you the best price. Also, select an early AM flight to avoid crowds and delays. Even if your flight does get delayed, you will have the most options for making alternate arrangements.
Share the Suitcase
As we talked about before, fewer pieces of luggage means fewer headaches. Once all of your clothes are efficiently rolled and packed into your bag, don’t let the remaining space go to waste. Condense family member’s belongings into as few suitcases as possible. The airlines charge a flat rate for checked bags, so this is a great way to make sure you get the most for your money. This also minimizes the amount of time spent fighting through other travelers at the ‘luggage-go-round.’
Don’t Go Hungry
The cost of food can add up quickly when you are away from home. On top of that, food prices at the airport are at a premium since they know your options are limited. However, you don’t want to be stuck on the plane with a growling stomach. To remedy this, pack your own meals on travel days. Snacks like nuts or granola bars are energizing and packed with protein, and fruit slices are a refreshing alternative to vacuum packed airplane food.
Traveling by plane can be a claustrophobic experience. The key to this is sensory deprivation. Headphones, ear plugs, eyes masks and inflatable neck pillows take up minimal room and can provide you with much needed solace on a hectic flight. While these items won’t stop the stir-crazy child in the row behind you from kicking your seat, they will do wonders to help you ignore him until he tires himself out.
Keep Track of your Bag
There is no worse way to start to a vacation than lost luggage. A lost bag can quickly derail even the most thoroughly thought out itinerary. Luckily, we have a solution to make lost luggage a thing of the past. Add an address tag to the inside of your checked bag, just in case the outer tag is damaged or lost during inspection. If you really want to be proactive about not losing your bag, put a GPS tracker in with your clothes. This way, we can keep track of the location of your luggage the whole flight, and ensure that it doesn’t end up in suitcase purgatory.
Chris Dato A Southern California kid born and raised, Chris is happiest with sunglasses on his face and sand under his back. Although a self-proclaimed master money saver, he prefers the term 'responsibly frugal' to 'cheap.'