December is here, the halls are decked, and many of us are heading home for the holidays. We look forward to being with friends and family, but getting there isn’t always a joyful process, especially if you have to fly. If you’re dreading holiday air travel, here are some tips to make your trip a little easier and more pleasant.
- Yes, really do get to the airport early: During the peak holiday season, be sure to arrive two hours before a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight. Allow time for traffic problems on the way, and, if you can, get a ride to the airport so you don’t have to deal with crowded parking lots.
- Study up for TSA: Hold-ups at security will slow you down, and they don’t make you popular with your fellow travellers, either. Before you pack, check the TSA’s holiday blog. You probably know the rules about carrying liquids and taking off your shoes, but there are also rules about carrying various devices and batteries, different foods (turkey is allowed; gravy no), and gifts (they reserve the right to unwrap them).
- Dress for comfort: You may be in transit longer than planned, so wear clothes comfortable enough to nap in on an airport bench if you have to, and take a warm coat or jacket you can layer on or sleep in. (That also saves space in your luggage.) A neck pillow can also be handy for dozing on flights or in the terminal.
- Have a luggage strategy: If you can fit everything you need in a carry-on bag, print or download your boarding pass at home and avoid check-in lines. However, planes will be crowded and overhead bins will be crammed, so if you do have to check luggage, check everything except your medications, snack food, a cell phone charger, just in case, and stuff to do on the plane.
- Beware of luggage bearing gifts: If you want to hand-carry delicate gifts, pack them in sturdy containers and be aware that they still have to fit within your carry-on limit. Consider shipping gifts before you travel, which also avoids the risk that TSA will want to unwrap them. If you’re determined to bring a bottle of wine, pack it carefully in a waterproof container and put it in your checked luggage. Better yet, buy it at a duty free or gift shop after you’re through security. If you’ve been a good boy or girl, you should also tuck an empty duffle bag inside your luggage for gifts you may need to bring back with you.
The bottom line for holiday travel is to hope for the best but plan for the worst. Prepare to be patient and kind with airport staff and other travellers because you’re all in this together. You will get home eventually, the holidays will happen, and the pain of travel will fade amidst the warmth of family and friends.