In most countries, the few days before and after Christmas, Thanksgiving or other major holidays are the busiest days in the year for travelling. With so many people travelling, things are bound to go wrong. Here are five tips for what you can do to minimise any chances of something going wrong and to make travelling for the holidays easier.
Choose your flights wisely
Naturally, if you don’t have to travel at peak times, you should avoid doing it. However, this is not always possible. Still, travel on peak dates tends to get expensive and books out very quickly, so booking well in advance is advisable.
While price is a factor, three other elements are worth considering when booking travel for the holidays:
- Book direct flights, if possible. Less can go wrong if you don’t have to transfer to another flight. Of course, direct flights are not always available.
- Take an early flight. If something does go wrong with a connecting flight, there are generally more solutions if it is still early in the day.
- Allow generous transfer times. If you have more time to transfer, minor delays will not totally scarper your onward flight plans. If the route allows, try and choose transfer airports in warmer climates to reduce the likelihood of delays and problems.
Leave early for the airport
Peak travel dates mean more people at the airport prior to departure. Anything that reduces the number of things you need to do at the airport is helpful. The more time you have to do them, the more relaxed you will be.
- Car parks can are often full. If you can, reserve one online in advance. If your car is low on fuel, refuel it the night before.
- Taxis, Uber, etc can take longer to reach terminals. Allow extra time for this.
- Check-in online, if possible. Make sure you have a print out of your boarding pass or have it saved to your phone.
- Allow extra time for security controls. Know what you will need to take out of your bag (e.g. toiletries, laptops) and make sure those things are easily accessible.
- If you are travelling internationally, use electronic scanning options at passport control, where possible. This may mean you have to register in advance (e.g. trusted traveller program (USA)). Please note, if you are travelling with children, you often will not be allowed to use these electronic options.
Airlines will normally recommend how much time you should allow at the airport before your flight. When travelling for the holidays, take this recommendation and add at least 30 minutes to it.
Delays and tight connections during peak travel times can easily result in misplaced luggage. Allow for this eventuality when travelling for the holidays and you will not be caught short or stressed when it happens to you.
Pack any necessary travel documents, and phone numbers for contacts, airlines, hotels, hire cars, etc., in your hand luggage. This will allow you to change your arrangements if you encounter delays.
Download airline (and airport) apps, too. You can change your booking via many airline apps, rather than waiting in (another) line. You can also use them for flight and weather updates.
Carry on restrictions
If you can exist on just hand luggage for your trip, do. Remember that certain things are not allowed in carry-on luggage.
- Liquids or gels must be in travel-sized containers (100 mL or less) and must fit inside a clear, one litre, plastic ziplock bag. This bag must be taken out for screening at security. Remember: any wine you may be taking as a gift or leftovers you might want to bring home must comply with these rules if they are in your hand luggage.
- Many airlines place restrictions on the volume of any power banks allowed on flights. A power bank may not exceed 160 Wh; you may also need approval from your airline to carry a power bank with a volume between 100 and 160 Wh. You must carry any power banks in your hand luggage.
- Some airlines will also not allow you to have USB cables that are longer than 1 metre in your hand luggage.
Make sure you observe the other hand luggage restrictions, too.
On a recent flight to London, I had totally forgotten that I had scissors in my handbag. Of course, security found them. It was the first day of
A full plane – which is very likely with so many travelling for the holidays -can also mean further restrictions on hand luggage. You may be required to put everything in one bag – make sure your handbag will fit in your carry-on suitcase.
Airlines may also require you to show that your hand luggage meets the size and weight restrictions. Luggage that does not may be put in the hull.
If you are packing gifts, don’t bother wrapping them. Security personnel can and will rip them open for screening as needed. This applies to both checked and hand luggage. I remember a friend in tears because security forced her to open all of the gifts she had carefully wrapped for her family because one package looked suspicious.
One last thing: as checked-in luggage invariably gets delayed during the holiday season, pack at least one outfit in your hand luggage. That way, you will not be caught short when your luggage takes an unexpected detour.
Bring some creature comforts
To make your flight(s) and any delays more comfortable, pack a few
These creature comforts might include:
- a book (ebook) and/or magazine
- noise-cancelling headphones
- an eye mask if you have a long-distant flight or hope to get some sleep
- snacks. A list of snacks, especially for kids, can be found here.
- a light blanket, broad scarf or pashmina or poncho; anything that might double as a blanket for warmth and comfort
- a water bottle: this should be empty for security but most airports have water fountains where you can refill your bottle after passing through security.
- hand cream, lip balm and hand sanitizer – these can be great for helping you feel refreshed. Note: These must comply with the liquid and gels requirements.
- your phone, fully charged, with a phone charger. Many airlines now have USB charge points in
Pack your patience
Travelling for the holidays can be particularly trying. With so many people and so much luggage, things are bound to go wrong. Snow, thunderstorms and other weather conditions often lead to delays. Missed connections and the general stress of the holiday period quickly fray nerves. Keep your temper in check.
Always remember that airport and airline staff are doing their best and it is not an easy time for them either. In most cases, staff cannot change the circumstances affecting your flight, but losing your cool will not encourage them to help you. You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.
Try and be positive. Smile at others in lines. Say thank you whenever someone does something for you, no matter how small. Leave enough time that you are not feeling hassled and racing from one part of the airport to another. Wait your turn. Your actions can have a positive effect on your fellow travellers.
Travelling for the holidays?
If you are lucky (or unlucky) enough to be travelling for the holidays, follow these five tips to make your trip easier. Choose your flights carefully and allow enough time at the airport for all eventualities. Pack smartly and remember to pack some creature comforts. Don’t forget to pack your patience as even with these tips, travelling for the holidays can test even the steeliest of nerves.