North Pole or Bust: 10 Helpful Holiday Travel Tips

10 helpful holiday travel tips and hacks for a more enjoyable trip

Traveling during the holidays, whether it be by land, air, or sea, is just plain stressful. Airports are packed with hour-long security lines, the interstates are jammed, and all we want to do is get home to see our families. No arsenal of helpful holiday travel tips can ever guarantee a meltdown-free trip, but these are some of the most useful insider hacks and holiday travel tips from transportation experts around the world.

1. Book right now

Early bird gets the worm! Travel fares will only increase (drastically) as the holidays draw near, so book now or as soon as you can. Bing has a ticket price predictor, and it will let you know if fares are expected go up or down within the next week, so you can figure out the ideal day to buy.

If fares are already looking too expensive– even for those planning weeks in advance, consider road tripping. If for nothing else, you’ll at least dodge the stress of airport security. And if you’re planning a long drive on a big travel day, make like a night owl and leave in the middle or super early in the morning (when everyone else is asleep) of the night to avoid traffic.

2. Avoid peak travel days

According to just about every travel website on the internet, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the biggest travel day of the year, and the week of Christmas isn’t exactly a joy ride either. Regardless of if you’re driving or flying, if you travel on the actual holiday itself, you’ll be avoiding the long lines, record traffic, and an exorbitant amount of stress– you’ll just also spend a significant portion of the holiday in the air or in your car.

3. Travel early in the day

Fun fact– an article of researched holiday travel tips by the Travel Channel confirms that flight statistics consistently indicate that planes traveling earlier in the day have a better on-time performance. When math tells you to be early, be early.

4. Give yourself wiggle room

Remember, all your planning will likely go down the drain if you miss your flight. Assume that there will be tons of traffic and long lines at the luggage counter, check-in, and security, so be sure to leave extra early. The holidays can be stressful enough as it is– don’t add to it with a Kevin McCallister-style sprint to your gate. Also, if you anticipate any inkling of a time crunch, avoid driving yourself to the airport. Not only will it save you money on parking, it’ll cut 10-15 minutes off your mad dash from car to airplane.

5. Know your airports

If your travel itinerary involves lay-overs during the holidays, it’s important to plot connections carefully. Try to only schedule plane changes in large airports with hundreds of daily flights in case yours gets cancelled or delayed. Also, bigger airports are beneficial because there’s tons of stuff to do, so it makes the torture of delayed, cancelled, and missed flights a little easier to bare. For example, if your flight gets delayed an extra 5 hours in Atlanta, you can eat, drink, get your nails done, and shop at the equivalent of a cheesy outlet mall– often times all within the same terminal.

6. Protect your valuables

Theft is far too common in airports, and a disturbing amount of cases are attributed to (gasp) the TSA. Plus, accidents happen– I mean, how many times have you misplaced your cell phone this year alone? Be careful with all of your valuables while traveling, especially your jewelry. If any of your pieces are of particular personal or intrinsic financial value to you, consider getting the right jewelry coverage before you leave for the holidays. Not all renters or homeowners insurance covers jewelry, so even if you have either (or both) of the two, double-check your policy. It’s always better safe than sorry!

So how do you get this added peace of mind and comfort during the hectic holiday season? Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company has been exclusively insuring jewelry for more than 100 years and offers repair or replacement coverage that includes worldwide travel protection for all types of jewelry and watches. Coverage includes loss, theft, damage and mysterious disappearance, ie unexplained loss. They provide an extra level of protection that often goes beyond what may be covered by typical homeowners or renters insurance, so check out your coverage options here.

7. Roll with the punches (if you can)

There’s no harm is asking for upgrades! If you’re bumped on an oversold flight, try to negotiate for an upgrade on your next flight– or if your airline pleads for volunteers to switch flights due to over-booking (and you can spare an extra few hours), barter for the best deal you can possibly get on an upcoming flight. Ask for airline credits, food vouchers, upgrades, and the works in exchange for your accommodation and flexibility. Also, if you’re a frequent flier or club member with the airline you’re flying with and you arrive at your gate extra early, you can also often successfully negotiate an upgrade before your flight.

8. Ship gifts ahead of time

Spare yourself the agony and frustration and ship your gifts ahead of time. The TSA has a few holiday travel tips of their own, and they formally suggests shipping wrapped gifts or waiting until you reach your destination to wrap them, as they might have to unwrap a present to inspect it. In addition to shipping your presents early, another smart tactic is to pack all your bulky winter clothes into vacuum bags and ship them early (potentially with all your wrapped gifts) to avoid lengthy airport check-in lines and crowded baggage claims.

9. There’s an app for that

Your smartphone can be your best friend when traveling during the holiday. Basic functionality will let you access itineraries via email or your airline’s mobile web site. For an even more convenient smart phone experience, iOS, Android, and Blackberry users can download TripIt, which is a free app that manages your itinerary and makes getting your boarding pass much easier. You can also use your smartphone as a way to look up gate information, as it frequently changes at a moment’s notice during the holiday season.

Other cool apps are: Trip Case, which also allows users to organize multiple flights, hotel reservations, and plans in one place, CityMaps2Go, which features downloadable maps and guides to over 7,000 destinations around the world and is great for travelers without a reliable internet connection, and BringFido, which is an app for pet parents that helps anywhere from mapping out parks where dogs are welcome to booking pet-friendly hotels.

10. Remember to breathe

I shouldn’t even need to say it, but holiday travel isn’t exactly relaxing. Probably the easiest of the holiday travel tips is to pack earplugs, noise cancelling headphones, plenty of snacks, and whatever devotionals will help you hold on to your sanity. ‘Tis the season to be jolly! If all else fails, remember to pack some emergency Benadryl to sleep your way through the torture.

Do you have any holiday travel tips of your own? Please share if you do! I’ve got a long plane ride back from Maine to Florida for Christmas, and I’m open to all the insider tips I can get! I know not all of us have family to come home to, so if you’re looking to take a trip for yourself this holiday season, here’s a fun guide to the ultimate southern road trip. Happy planning!

Thank you Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company for sponsoring this post. Jewelers Mutual provides comprehensive protection for your items, including worldwide travel coverage, for worry-free travels this holiday season!

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