Advice for International Travel During the Holidays
Traveling during the holidays can either be a joyful vacation or a stressful disaster, and the primary force separating those two extremes is your level of preparation. Holidays are the most popular time to travel, which means longer lines for airport security, more regular flight delays, and lost baggage. In order to ensure that your holiday travel is as relaxing as possible, here are our top 6 holiday travel tips lead you to a stress-free vacation.
1. Leave Yourself Extra Time
Plan ahead. Of course this is an obvious solution, but it is the first tip for a reason. Planning ahead can mean getting the flight you need and not having to paying double the price. Or spending time with your family and not hundreds of other strangers in the car-rental line. Map out every step of your journey, big and small, and then ensure you have transportation coordinated as needed.
Getting to the airport and getting through security often takes longer during holidays than the rest of the year, so save yourself extra time in case of traffic or long security lines. We typically recommend arriving at the airport an hour and a half before your flight departure for domestic flights and 2 hours for international flights. During the holidays, we suggest adding an additional 30-minute buffer to get to your terminal.
2. Check Your Flight Status Ahead of Time
Before leaving for the airport, check online to make sure that your flight isn’t delayed. A quick Google search of your flight number will typically reveal whether or not your flight is on time. We suggest you realistically estimate travel time and even over-estimate to be safe. There will be an abundance of people-everywhere. Take this into account when mapping out how long you need to get from point A to point B. Missing a flight or having a taxi wait too long can be costly and stressful. Will you be doing a lot of driving? Download an app like waze to your phone to help cut down on navigation blunders and getting stuck in traffic.
3. Make Sure You’re Insured
a. Imagine that you come down with a horrible fever the night before your flight. Missing the beginning of your trip certainly isn’t ideal, but imagine having to pay for another last-minute plane ticket and doubling, if not tripling, the total cost of travel for the trip. With trip insurance, you can at least ensure that you are reimbursed for the cost of your flight. Trip insurance can cover everything from trip interruption to lost baggage and is a smart investment for any form of travel.
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4. Ship Gifts Instead of Bringing Them as Luggage
a. One of the most common issues that we hear about during the holidays relates to traveling with presents. Many individuals decide to bring gifts in their luggage only to discover upon arriving at their destination that the presents were damaged. Items in your luggage bag face a difficult journey from the time that you arrive at the airport until the time that you arrive at your destination, and broken luggage items are not uncommon. On top of that, many travelers packing gifts will also arrive at their destination only to find that their gifts have been opened. TSA personnel have an obligation to inspect any items that they feel may contain illegal goods, which often results in wrapped gifts being opened and inspected.
Label your luggage
Putting a rare ribbon, scarf or luggage tag on your bag will help you quickly identify it and keep others from mistaking it for their own. Also, make sure you have a tag with contact information on both the outside and inside of your bag. In the event of lost luggage this will make the process run as smooth as possible when trying to retrieve it, especially if the outside tag is ripped off en route.
5. Book Your Flight (Far) in Advance
It’s no secret that traveling during the holidays can be expensive. Two of the best ways to minimize the cost of holiday travel are to book your flight as far in advance as possible and to travel on off-peak days. For example, booking a flight on the 22nd or 23rd of December is going to be a fraction of the price of booking a flight on the 24th.
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6. Plan Extra Time for Layovers
There are few things more frustrating than missing a connecting flight. Missing a connecting flight to see your family for Christmas brings a whole new level of frustration. 30-60 minutes may be enough time for a domestic connection flight during most times of the year, but we suggest doubling that time during the holidays to account for any flight delays that may occur.
Before leaving for your trip, you should also consider packing the following items in your carry-on bag:
- An empty water bottle (to be refilled after security)
- Airborne or Emergen-C (for preventing sickness while flying)
- Emergency set of clothes (in case of lost luggage)
- Your favorite snack (because who doesn’t love snacking on an airplane?)
Before Your Trip: Tips for Your Holiday Vacation
- First of all, make sure that you check your flight status hours in advance. There is nothing worse than getting to the airport to find that your flight has been delayed! We find FlightStats an important resource that will track flights and give you up-to-the-minute information on your flight.
- Next, use Google Maps to find out what the traffic patterns will be like and if there will be any delays on your route to the airport. Think, should I re-route to avoid traffic?
- Make sure that all of your bags have been weighed and that you have minimized the number of bags you’re planning to bring. You may want to check the associated fees with your airlines as some are now charging for carry-ons as well. We found that Airfarewatchdog.com has a helpful chart where you can find information on domestic and international baggage fees.
- You’ll also want to look into travel insurance that offers baggage delay, trip interruption, missed connection, lost baggage, travel assistance, emergency medical expenses, etc. The Trip Cancellation Insurance is an important preventative measure before embarking on your holiday vacation.
- Before getting on the plane, be sure that you have “just-in-case” clothes with you if bad weather bogs you down. Small bottles that fit in a quart-size bag can also be used to hold toothpaste and other essentials as your emergency travel kit.
- Make sure that you have proper identification on your bags that are sealed for security purposes and convenient if lost.
- Lastly, once you’re in the airport about to board the plane be sure to buy a bottle of water. There is nothing more uncomfortable than being delayed on the plane without being properly hydrated. If you’re looking to save a few bucks, you can also pack an empty water bottle and fill it up at a water fountain.
Keep it Clean
With all the stress of travel during the holiday season and the numerous opportunities for exposure to germs, it is important to take every measure possible to keep your immune system performing at its best. There are thousands of passengers coming and going to an airport. Each one of them brings in more germs than I am able to comfortably think about. What may seem like innocent actions can result in illness. Think about a man who touches the security belt after scratching his sock-free foot or a woman who wipes her child’s nose, then opens the bathroom door with the same tissue in hand. To ensure you are not continuing the spread of any germs picked up, make sure to wash your hands frequently. To protect yourself wash your hands before you eat or touch your eyes.
Although many locations this time of year bring cool weather, it is important that travel during the holiday season also includes fresh air. With heat being circulated through buildings and windows kept tightly shut, exposure to a germ-free breeze outdoors will be a welcomed break for your immune system.
Keeping these ideas in mind should leave you well equipped to enjoy your holiday travels. Have other suggestions of how to improve this list? Tweet at us with any suggestions and we will gladly add them.
Happy holidays from all of us at International Citizens! Safe travels – Boy voyage! Ciao! Salaam! Wiedersehen! Au Revoir! Bless! Snakkes!