The holidays are a family time, requiring some form of travel for many people. Whether it means trekking back home or joining your family at an exciting destination, here are a few tips to keep your holiday journey fun and worry-free:
- Plan for the weather: Rain, ice, snow and wind complicates travel. Install a weather app on your smartphone so you can get up-to-date travel conditions. If your original travel plan is scuttled by an unexpected storm, have a communication and backup strategy. This usually means contacting people using Facetime and adding overnight stays to wait out bad weather. Having trip insurance for when inclement weather is a possibility is a very good way to Depart Smart.
- Save money by keeping your browsing private: Browse incognito when you’re looking for flights. Browser cookies can alert ticketing sites and actually increase purchase prices.
- Be an early-bird: The holidays are a busy time, the best times and seats fill up fast. Book as early as you can to ensure you’ve got the best fare at the best times to claim your seat at the Thanksgiving dinner table.
- Travel happy: Stuff your smartphone and your bag with the entertainment you need to stave off airplane crankiness or bus and train station blues.
- Bring your earbuds and a spare pair. Nothing’s worse than losing your headphones when you need a podcast or video to pass time.
- Those airport electricity outlets will be in high demand. Invest in a portable phone charger or extra battery so your ipad, personal computer or smartphone doesn’t die on you. Or, purchase a travel power cord, multi-purpose surge protector, to share the juice and make friends.
- Do you like movies? Music? Podcasts? E-books? Download these essential entertainment items before you go so WiFi or data bottlenecks don’t hinder your entertainment.
- Bring a snack and some water. Don’t miss your flight because you’re still standing in line for a bag of pistachios. Remember to buy or fill a water bottle after you go through the TSA security checkpoint.
- Have your own supply of hand sanitizer. Travel terminals are full of people and germs. The last thing you need is to be sick for the holidays.
- Wear a hoodie. These garments are light, portable, warm and soft. Put up the hood for a little shade and privacy, scrunch it under your head for some comfy snoozing and switch between warmth and cool whenever you need to.
- Bring pocket money as well as cards. If you forget something, you won’t have to go without.
- Use GPS to track your progress and let your contacts know your estimated time of arrival. Your family will be happy to know when to expect you.
- Tip the hand in your favor: These online tools can help you get the most out of your trip:
- TSA precheck: Get on the approved list to get through airport security quickly by skipping the long lines. Be sure to sign up for it well in advance. Getting approved requires a 10-minute in-person interview with a background check and fingerprinting. The TSA says interview times for the next few months are filling fast. Coverage is good for 5 years at a one-time cost of $85.
- Seat Guru: Figure out the seating options of your plane to determine what seats are actually the premium seats, i.e., having the most storage, breathing room, reclining space and other amenities.
- Amtrak Red Cap Service: These red-uniformed Amtrak workers in 12 major cities can help you stash your bags and give you a chance to board early.
- Gas Buddy: This app, and others like it, can help you find low gas prices for long road trips.
- Google My Maps: Map your trip, planning stops for meals, rests and overnight stays.
- Other tips: To make sure you and your stuff get there safe and sound:
- Get travel insurance to make sure your investment, stuff and self are covered for medical and evacuation emergencies. A policy can save you thousands of dollars.
- Beware of who you choose to ride with Some universities and apps can set you up with ridesharing services, which can save you some money. If you don’t know the person you’re riding with personally, do a quick background check. Talk to them before the trip and ask about things like smoking habits, music preferences, speeding or traffic violations, and other potential points of disagreement.
- Keep your bag as light as you can when packing. College students, if you’re bringing laundry home, stick a dryer sheet in the laundry bag to keep things fresh.
- Secure your bags. Protect your luggage and valuables with mesh locks, slash-proof backpacks, Tile GPS and other security products. Keep your most precious possessions close to you at all times. This means avoiding the trunk of the taxi, luggage stowage compartments, and overhead bins.
- If your holiday trip involves leaving the country, go prepared. Check out Depart Smart.org’s travel safety checklist, register your trip at step.state.gov and Depart Smart.
“What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”
Do it safely and comfortably.