Holiday travel comes around every year. Some of us absolutely dread the thought of packing up the entire car, the kids, and even the dog to drive 4 hours in traffic to go to your in-laws for the weekend. But just like doing your taxes every April, you have to do it. It’s like an American tradition. If you are lucky enough to be one of 28.5 million people who choose to fly on Thanksgiving weekend I want to share some easy airport travel tips. Whether you are traveling domestic or international, you want to make your holiday travel as stress-free as possible. We don’t want you running through the airport like Kevin McCallister’s family in Home Alone rushing to your gate with five minutes to spare. I found a few clever tips from Travel + Leisure editors as well as a few of my own too for surviving the holiday travel season with your cheerfully intact!
Fly at undesirable times.
While setting an alarm for 4 a.m. may seem extremely painful the night before, booking a really early flight on notoriously busy days will often avoid the relentless holiday crowds. Arriving with the very early risers will make for a much quieter and more serene airport experience, in contrast to the mayhem that sets in by 10 a.m. around the holidays. Additionally, if you don’t mind flying on the morning of Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve, the crowds are likely to be less chaotic than they would be on December 22nd or 23rd.
Arrive really early.
I am not one for wanting to feel stressed before a long travel day with my family. Getting to airport at least 2 hours prior to your flight and 3 hours before international travel will allow for plenty of time to check bags and get past security. Especially if the airport you are traveling in is foreign to you. If it is possible always try to do curbside check in with your bags. The cost maybe $5-10 a bag, but you will now be avoiding the lines at the ticket counters that could be anywhere from 30-60 minutes.
Make traveling with kids as easy as possible
It’s a little-known secret that, with online ticketing services, some airlines block out their front-row bulkhead seats, especially on overnight, international flights popular with families. This ensures that those bassinets are put to good use. Knowing this, call your airline (months in advance) and requested that special row. What’s more, these seats are typically Economy Plus; airlines give them to families, upon request, pending availability, at no extra charge. For these bassinets, weight and height limits vary per airline, but 25 pounds is generally the maximum. I have flown internationally with my 2 children now 3 times. I can’t stress this – enough bring as many snacks, activities, and charged up iPads as your carry on can bring! A happy entertained child makes for a very smooth flight. You can also request a children’s meal when checking your bags at the ticket counter, which is usually chicken fingers and french fries. Every kid’s dream meal!
Planning to hit the road
So you’re piling into the car and hitting the road to get to your holiday destination. Unfortunately, so are 91% of other holiday travelers. The biggest travel tip? Travel very early or very late at night because the best way to beat traffic is to hit the road while everyone else is asleep, according to the Travel Channel.
Plus, road trips aren’t always all they’re cracked up to be. Especially if you’re planning to cover the average long-distance trip of 275 miles To power through, stick to the two-digit interstates, which are usually the most direct routes through cities. Don’t be afraid to skip the fast food and hit the grocery store instead. Listen to your favorite radio station, take plenty of breaks to stretch your legs, and most importantly, pull off the road when you get sleepy.