The holidays are a magical time of year, when ordinary things like trees and front porches transform into twinkling wonderlands trimmed in red and green. While being home for the holidays is always special, the season also marks the perfect (ish) time to travel. Whether you’re visiting friends or family or whisking away on an adventure of a lifetime, from perfect winter destinations to those ready to thaw you out when the weather gets too cold, holiday travel is guaranteed to make extra special memories.
As a full-time traveler, I’ve learned my fair share of lessons when it comes to navigating everything from booking a trip to perfecting travel days and building an itinerary, all of which become more complicated during the holidays.
If you’re considering a trip this season, here are five tips to help your journey go extra smoothly.
The holidays are always the busiest time of year to travel. PricewaterhouseCooper's (PwC) annual Holiday Outlook report projects that 47% of consumers will travel this holiday season. That’s A LOT of people moving through roads and airports in a short period of time, so naturally, that comes with a higher price tag and increased potential for complications.
As we’re already entering November, it’s imperative to nail down your holiday travel plans sooner rather than later, not only to take advantage of any remaining deals or discounts, but more importantly, to get locked in before things are fully booked. While booking your flights and accommodations may seem obvious, take this time to also book all the extras like airport transfers, dinner reservations, spa appointments, and any other can’t-miss activities on the list before they fill up.
Carefully consider your destination.
So you know you want to travel this season, but you aren’t sure where. Take care to carefully consider all of your options for holiday travel. Places like Mexico and the Caribbean are quick to fill up for those that want to escape the cold, but likewise, cities with ski resorts and mountain retreats are also being booked by people who prefer to dive head first into the winter season.
Don’t overlook the fact that there are plenty of “in-between” destinations to consider – like charming small towns that are brimming with holiday charm (and often just a road trip away) or major cities that consider the winter their shoulder season. For those, you’ll likely be able to find cheaper options and fewer crowds than you would in warmer weather.
Be EXTRA prepared.
With the influx of travelers the holiday season always brings, it’s important to be extra prepared and over-cautious to avoid any hiccups. This means arriving at the airport earlier than you normally would to account for security delays, anticipating disruptions and knowing your backup plan (more on this later), and leveraging the tools and resources available to help your travel day go smoothly.
Enrolling in programs like TSA Precheck, Clear or Global Entry before your trip can help you breeze through security and customs lines. Packing all of your essentials in your carry-on bag (chargers, medications, spare clothes, etc.) will ensure you’re prepared if your checked bags get stuck on a canceled flight or lost altogether (it happens). Purchasing travel insurance can give you peace of mind that you’ll, at minimum, be reimbursed if things go sideways.
Have a Backup Plan.
My ultimate piece of travel advice will help set you apart from other travelers in the event your journey does get disrupted. Particularly for flights, it's imperative to have at least some idea of a backup plan should something be canceled or significantly delayed. Before your trip, save the phone numbers for customer support at the airlines in your phone so you can call immediately, know if there are alternate routes (or even multiple airports) in your destination, and identify a hotel or two near the airport you can book quickly if you’ll have to stay longer.
Most passengers rely on customer service at the airlines to propose alternative options for rebooking, but that process can be lengthy when everyone on your flight is facing the same issue. Coming to the table with options that work best for you will help significantly speed up the process and will hopefully have you well on your way soon.
Roll with the punches.
We all learned last holiday season that travel plans can quickly be derailed for reasons completely out of your control. Despite how prepared you are or how tight your backup plan is, the truth is, seamless travel is largely out of your hands. The best thing to do is to roll with all the punches a trip can throw – a positive attitude and a calm approach can lead to some of the very best memories, despite them not being the ones you thought you were going to make.
Wishing you all safe and happy travels this season and beyond!