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The holidays are coming up, and you know what that means—travel. Holiday travel can be some of the most stressful travel, so here are a few tips to decrease some of that holiday travel stress.
1. When to Book – Orbitz put out this guide on when the best days are to book your Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Eve flights. All the best days have passed for Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, but you still have a few days left for New Year's Eve travel! Even if this is not applicable to you anymore, keep it handy for next year.
2. How to Book – Use kayak.com and skyscanner.net, to compare prices before booking. These websites scan airline websites and other travel engines such as Orbitz to find the best deals. They are a great way to compare prices by day of travel across multiple airlines and travel sites. You can also set alerts on Kayak, so that you can monitor flight prices and be ready to book when prices go down. Southwest Airlines is not on Kayak, so check their website separately if you are traveling domestically.
Something to keep in mind - As required by the U.S. Department of Transportation, flights within the U.S. that are booked at least 7 days in advance have a 24 hr cancellation rule. This means that if you cancel within 24 hours of booking a flight, you will get a full refund. So if you find a good fare but aren’t quite sure, you have the option of cancelling within 24 hours if you find a better deal or change your mind. Of course, check the airline or travel site’s website to be sure before booking.
3. When to Fly – Fly in the morning because this decreases the chances that your flight will be delayed. If you have to book a connecting flight, look for a layover at an airport that doesn't experience much winter weather.
4. What to Pack – TRAVEL LIGHT. Last thing you want to do is to worry about your bag getting lost (especially if it contains gifts), so only take a carry-on bag with you. Ship any gifts you may be bringing ahead of time to your destination. If you are going on a Christmas getaway, consider opening big gifts before or after the vacation, and only take small gifts with you. Believe me, the less you carry, the less stressed you will feel.
5. Where to Sit – This one can be a little tricky, because it depends on the airline's boarding process. When you have a carry-on, you want to choose a seat that allows you to board the plane early in the process. If you are one of the last people to board, there most likely will not be space in the overhead bins for your bag, which defeats the purpose of carrying on! However, if you have a tight layover, you should sit closer to the front so that you can deplane faster and make it to your next flight with enough time to spare. Check your airline's boarding process and choose your seat appropriately. Also, make sure to select a seat when you book, so that you don’t forget. If you wait until the day you fly, you won’t get your first choice seat.
6. Set Flight Alerts – This is especially important if you are traveling to, from, or have a connecting flight in a location with heavy winters. Set up a flight alert so that you get a text if there is a delay or cancellation. You can check the airlines website or Twitter feed the day before or day of to get updates as well. This lets you act fast and rebook on another flight if necessary.
7. Protect Your Valuables – If you do check in luggage, NEVER place anything valuable in your checked luggage. Always carry valuables with you. Sometimes, if there isn't enough overhead bin space, you might be forced to gate-check your carry-on luggage. Be prepared with a personal bag (daypack, backpack, or purse) or a bag within your carry-on, where you place all of your valuables. If you have to check in your carry-on luggage, keep your personal bag with you or take out the bag within your carry-on, and you are good to go. Not worrying about the security of your valuables = less stress.
8. Check in before you arrive at the airport – I always do this when travelling domestically. You will beat the lines and save yourself some time and stress!
These tips apply to any time you travel, but during the holidays, when there is so much going on and sanity levels are low, they are especially important to remember. Good luck this holiday season and happy traveling!
Nidhi is a Contributor at Sona