Do These 9 Things Now to Make Holiday Air Travel Easier


Holiday air travel is hectic. Between long lines, weather delays, harried passengers and employees, and the stress of wanting to make the season perfect, getting to your destination can feel like a long, difficult process.

While there's nothing you can do to change the lines you'll have to stand in or the people standing in them with you, there are some things you can do now that will alleviate some of the stress of the actual travel. (See also: Holiday Travel Hacks That Will Save Your Sanity)

1. Plan your trip ASAP

It may seem early, but now is the time to buy your tickets and plan your trip, if you haven't done it already. While there may be some last-minute deals, planning your trip now allows you to figure out exactly what you want to do and when you want to do it, and it gives you peace of mind for the rest of the season. Once you have your tickets in hand, that part of the hassle is over. (See also: 11 Ways to Save Money on Holiday Travel)

2. Hunt for deals

Before you buy any tickets, look into holiday deals. Compare ticket prices using different search engines, and even see what it would cost to book directly with your preferred airline. While this won't guarantee you the lowest prices of the season, it will help you make sure that you aren't spending more than you have to in order to pre-plan your travel.

Look, too, at holiday deals for attractions you'd like to see when you arrive at your destination. When you look for holiday-specific things to do, you may also find some discounts for these activities. (See also: 10 Flight Booking Hacks to Save You Hundreds)

3. Save important numbers

Whenever you get a piece of your trip planned, add important numbers, like your reservation number and the phone number for customer support, to a document or file on your phone. That way, if you run into trouble or want to confirm something, you won't have to dig through your email first.

This is particularly handy if you have a snafu while you are traveling. If your flight is canceled and you know exactly where to find the number to call for help, you'll be miles ahead of everyone else who has to look the number up.

4. Bring an extra bag for presents

When you travel over the holidays, you tend to come home with gifts. Even if you aren't actually traveling over Christmas, chances are that someone will give you a holiday gift while you're away. Plan ahead for getting these home by bringing an extra, empty bag in your suitcase. Take the time now to find one that folds up small, so you don't have to haul around town looking for one later.

5. Get your travel supplies together

What do you like to have on the airplane? Make sure that you have all of those things now and that you know where to find them, so you aren't running around like a crazy person the night before you leave.

Popular travel supplies include noise canceling headphones; a neck pillow for sleeping in transit; small toys, games, and candy for any children traveling with you; travel-sized toiletries; and any snacks that you want to bring on the plane. (See also: 8 Things You Should Always Pack in Your Carry-On)

6. Buy your gifts

If you are planning to open gifts with someone during your trip, buy those gifts now. The sooner you have that shopping done, the sooner you'll be able to figure out how to transport the presents. Remember that gift wrap doesn't always make it through security, and things like jams and jellies will be confiscated if you try to carry them on.

The best way to transport your gifts is to ship them, rather than trying to transport them yourself. Sure, there's a cost involved, but you might have to pay for that extra suitcase, too! Shipping also allows you to insure your package, in case something breaks or gets damaged along the way. (See also: 11 Ways Your Credit Card Will Save You Money While Holiday Shopping)

7. Download travel apps

Make sure you have all of the apps you need for your trip downloaded and installed before you start your trip. If you have a customer login for air travel, make sure you've entered that, too, so you don't have to fuss with your phone to find your boarding pass at check-in. Most airlines have apps, as do car rental places, and even individual attractions. Get these organized now so you know where they are later.

8. Get the right luggage

If you don't have the luggage that you want for your trip, buy it now rather than later. Take into account how much stuff you are taking and bringing back, and whether you want to check your bag or carry it on. Decide, too, if each member of your party will have their own bag or if it would be cheaper and easier to pack fewer, larger bags.

Think, too, about how you will move your luggage from place to place. Do you need a suitcase with wheels, or can you shoulder that duffle bag all the way to the gate? Making these decisions now will make your packing less frantic later. (See also: 9 Ways to Protect Your Luggage on Your Next Trip)

9. Prep for security checkpoints

Security is a pain, but it's a necessary evil. Thinking about it now could make it much less of a headache for you later. Decide if TSA Precheck is the right choice for you and your party. You will need to apply ahead of time, so it's best to decide now whether you want to use it. Make sure that your entire party can qualify, or you will still end up waiting for some people to get through the long lines.

If you decide not to use PreCheck, you can still prepare yourself to get through the TSA checkpoint as quickly as possible. Make sure you wear shoes that are easy to remove and avoid a belt. Have an easy way to remove laptops from your larger bag, so you don't have to struggle with it. Plan out who will help any children in your party to get through, too, so they don't cause a holdup.

Though holiday travel can be stressful, there's nothing like spending those special days with people you love, doing things you love to do. Begin your planning now to minimize the impact of this stress and maximize your holiday joy.

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