How to Travel During the Holidays Without Turning Into Scrooge

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Crammed overhead bins, flight delays, backed-up traffic and wintery driving conditions are enough to turn anyone into a Scrooge during the holidays. But just because the holidays are a hectic time in the travel world, doesn’t mean you have to stay home and miss out on the biggest perk of the holidays — spending time with family and friends. These eight holiday travel tips (and a peppermint mocha or two) will help you arrive at your destination with plenty of holiday cheer left to spare.

 #1. Check Into Your Flight Online

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If you haven’t adjusted to checking in online yet, now is the time to do it. This is especially useful if you won’t be checking any baggage, because you can skip the slow check-in lines and head straight to security. If you do have to check baggage, checking in online can make the baggage checking process move more quickly. You’ll also save yourself from being surprised by unexpected baggage fees.

#2. Leave Early, Very Early

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If you’re flying this holiday season, it’s best to get on the earliest flight schedule as possible. Statistics show that early flights have better on-time performance than later ones. Road travelers need to leave early this time of year too. Winter weather conditions and unexpected traffic problems are common during the holiday season, so give yourself plenty of extra time to get to your destination safely.

#3. Keep Your Carry-On Small

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Checked baggage fees have led us to cram as much into our carry-on baggage as possible, but that’s not the best choice when traveling during the busy holiday season. Overhead bins get overloaded this time of year, so opting to check a bag can save you a lot of unwanted stress. If you do decide to travel with only a carry-on, ask if you can check it for free at the gate, so you don’t have to worry about fighting for overhead space.

#4. Book Transit Hotels in Advance

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Roadside hotels tend to fill up quickly during the holiday season. Save yourself from the stress of searching by booking the roadside hotels you’ll need ahead of time. Driving during the holidays can take a toll on you and your passengers, and having a safe, comfortable place to stay can make a huge difference in how much you enjoy the journey.

If you’ll be traveling by air and have an overnight layover, an airport hotel inside the terminal can save you from having to go through customs and security, and can ensure you get a good night’s sleep before another day of travel.

#5. Opt for Longer Layovers

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Winter weather can create a dreadful amount of flight delays and cancellations. Plan your travels with two or three hours between flights, so you’re not overly stressed if your flight is delayed. Longer layovers also give you a chance to stretch your legs and slow down (or do some last minute holiday shopping) throughout an otherwise busy travel day.

#6. Be Careful With Your Gifts

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Gifts take up a lot of room in your luggage or your travel vehicle. If you’ll be flying to your destination, carry valuable gifts on board the plane with you. If you must store them in your checked baggage, be sure to purchase a TSA-approved lock before flying. Otherwise, consider shipping your gifts to your destination ahead of time. It’ll save you room in your vehicle or luggage and can even cost less than a checked baggage fee.

Note: TSA can unwrap your gifts if they want to see what’s inside, so refrain from wrapping anything until you arrive at your destination.

#7. Check for Alternate Routes

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A direct flight isn’t always the quickest or most affordable option during the holidays. Consider flying to a smaller nearby airport and renting a car or taking a train to your destination. Avoiding popular hubs can save you from the stress, annoyance and slow pace of holiday crowds.

If you’re traveling by road, always keep a couple of alternative routes on the back burner in case poor weather, busy roads or road work get in your way. Many times an uncrowded alternate route can get you to your destination quicker than a completely backed-up freeway.

#8. Pack Essentials in Your Carry-On

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Flight delays, cancellations and the hustle and bustle of holiday travel can lead to the disappointment of lost baggage. Don’t worry, usually this means someone will drop your bags off at your destination within a day, but that also means you may be without clothing and toiletries until your bag arrives. Prepare for the worst by packing a few toiletries and a change of clothes in your carry-on, so you’re not left high and dry if your bag is stuck behind.

About the Author: Courtney McCaffrey

Courtney McCaffrey is a travel writer and editor based in Wilmington, N.C. In addition to writing, she lives for travel - seeing new places, experiencing new cultures and surfing new waves.

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