23 Holiday Travel Tips to Keep you Sane and Happy

Crazy times are ahead of us. It’s the silly season, otherwise known as the Christmas holidays.

Only the most fearless and brave will walk up to the airline counters and through those security gates. I bow down to you.

Me – the frequent traveler – will be cozied on down in North Carolina with my red wine, my UGG boots and throw blanket and the wit of Harvey Specter and Mike Ross.

You can have those holiday crowds.

But, I understand, that for you it might just be the most magical exciting time for the year for travel for you. So allow me to make this chaotic season of travel a little easier for you with the following tips.

Holiday Travel Tips

New York holiday travel tips

My number one tip is,

1. Be Prepared. Accept. Embrace

Enter the holiday travel season with the understanding it’s going to be chaotic and possibly filled with problems.

Accept this is the case and choose to willingly travel despite this. It puts you in a much better position to handle the lines and the delays.

You’re already prepared for it. And you might get a nice surprise and not have the worst case scenario.

Breathe deeply and use the long queues as an opportunity to catch up on emails on your phone, or swap stories with the strangers around you – helping them to feel at ease at the same time – make it part of the journey.

My daughter asked me last night after bidding the cashier at Trader Joe’s farewell, “Mum, why do you always talk to everyone?

“Because it makes life sweeter. People re so interesting. If you just take the time to engage and show interest.

2. Consider Holiday Packages.

The competitiveness of the holiday season means you might find some great deals on hotel and flight packages.

3. Check Alternate Airports.

You can often experience less delays and get cheaper deals, not just on fights but on rental cars and transfers as well.

4. Avoid Peak Travel Days

Sometimes this can be hard to do but when you’re searching for your flights click flexible dates so that you can find the best price and book your flights according to that period.

Planning to travel soon? Let us help you know what to do and when. Our pre-departure checklists will arrive in your inbox at the right stage of the travel planning journey and tell you what to take care of. They’re free.

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5. Early or Late Flights are Best

Most people don’t like to fly at this time so you have a better airport experience and experience less delays as well.

6. Leave for the Airport with Plenty of Time

Even if you have an unusual surprise and the lines aren’t long at least you’ll make your flight and you can relax at the gate with a good book.

There is nothing more stressful then almost missing your flight.

I recently flew home from Austria via Munich on the busiest day of the year. I had two hours to get to my gate, and almost didn’t make it.

I only made it because I begged the airport guy to slip me through on the fast lane and he only did it because I was solo and my flight was leaving in 15 minutes.

The crew of young men who tried to follow me were denied and they would have missed their flight for sure. Being the holidays, you’ll struggle to get on the next, or the next flight.

7. Fly Direct to Avoid Possible Connection Delays

If not, plot your connection routes carefully bearing in mind weather conditions that might cause delays.

8. Avoid Airline Counters If You Can

Check in online and print off your ticket. Check your bags in curbside.

Important note – this doesn’t always work. It infuriates me when I check in online, yet arrive at the airport and have to do it again anyway to get my bag tags and then I line up for hours. American Airlines are pretty bad for this.

Research beforehand to find out. If you are traveling internationally as well, sometimes this doesn’t work. I couldn’t do it flying home from Munich for some reason because of my US visa.

9. Reserve Airport Parking

Reserve airport parking ahead of time to ensure a spot and you can sometimes get good deals online.

But, do run the numbers to see if it’s cheaper for you to park your car, or just catch an Uber to the airport. OR find a friend to drive you.

10. Travel on Christmas Day

You can get great prices and some airports may just be the ghost town of your dreams.

11. Use Your Membership Reward Points

Cash in those reward points for flights, accommodation, or upgrades. Do your research well in advance and book as soon as you can. It is the holiday season so many people may be trying the same strategy.

Be careful that you are getting the right value for the use of your points.

For example, in New York, although we had Airbnb credits we could use, we realized we were better paying for two nights accommodation that was decently priced, instead of using our credits.

It was a $400 difference and those credits would stretch much further in a cheaper destinations. And as we were out exploring every day, we couldn’t really utilize the benefits of an Airbnb stay, for example the kitchen!

holiday travel tips for gifts

12. Take Advantage of Crazy Holiday Sales

Now I am not a shopper, but I was kinda getting into it in New York with those insane deals.

We saved over $200 at Macy’s in New York purchasing some good winter coats for all of us, and two gorgeous outfits for the girls to wear to the Lion King.

We combined those savings with in-store sales, online coupon codes (which you can use in store) AND my Amex card offers. We did not save money at the American Girl Doll Store however. #donotenter #youhavebeenwarned.

13. Packing Gifts

My best tip is to not fly with gifts. Send them instead, give gift cards, or have Amazon deliver them!

Craig’s Mum (in Australia) shops for presents on Walmart and has them delivered to our door.

Or, just forgo gift giving and focus on memory making.

If you must:

  • Don’t wrap the gifts, security could very well unwrap them to take a peak.
  • Pack and pad them well in your suitcase.
  • Be sure not to carry on any gels.
  • If you are flying internationally, be aware of rules bringing in food. Most countries will confiscate them.

14. Pack Light

It can be a bit hard with all that winter holiday gear. #theworst. If you can get away with just a carry on, do it.

Relevant Reading – Check out our best packing tips

15. Be Prepared

with snacks, entertainment, water etc. for your flight or drive. You just don’t know what sort of delays you may experience. Better to be prepared.

16. Be Phone Ready

Make sure your phone is charged and has all relevant phone numbers, itineraries and apps installed.

We love the Tripit App Pro version. It automatically imports all bookings and itineraries from my email into the app.

It lets me know of any flight changes or delays and tells me what gate I am arriving and departing from – super handy if I have to do the mad dash for my connecting flight.

Here’s a great portable charger to ensure your phone is always fully charged.

holiday travel tips for road trips

17. Take a Road Trip

Better still, avoid flying all together. Throw all the gifts in the car and as much luggage as you want and do it old style!

You get more flexibility and freedom, less hassle and stress, quality time with your loved ones, and it will often be much cheaper! Driving to New York saved us about $800 in flight expenses.

Relevant Reading: Road Trip Survival Guide

18. Have Alternate Routes Planned If You Are Driving

Better yet, just use Google Maps and it will constantly update and divert you from traffic so you always take the faster route.

Again, avoid peak times. We left on our road trip to New York on the Sunday at the nd of Thanksgiving weekend. Hello traffic jams.

19. Stay Local

Rent an apartment in a destination close to home with a bunch of friends or family and just have a cheaper and more relaxed experience closer to home. We love Staycations.

20. Get Up Early

If your holiday travel is centered around exploring and visiting tourist destinations then get up early. You will beat the queues as most people won’t get up early!!

We had no wait to go to the top of the One World Observatory and only a short one for the 911 Museum recently in New York as we arrived at opening.

When we walked out the lines were snaking around the building.

However, we did arrive at the Empire State Building in the middle of the day (could not be helped) and we had an hour wait. It would have been longer if we did not have the Sightseeing Pass which helped us skip the ticket queues.

21. Get a City Sightseeing Pass

If you plan on visiting several tourist attractions in a city, then grab a city sightseeing pass.

Not only will they save you money on attraction fees, they sometimes give you fast pass access. New York was the first time I used one and I’m now a big fan.

City sightseeing passes are the bomb.

22. Be Nice

If something goes wrong, just smile, be patient and kind. That’s the best way to get help.

No one is going to help you if you flip your lid at them. I understand why you might want to, but it’s not the best solution.

Be understating of the hell the person behind the counter may be going through if there are travel dramas. Sometimes it may be quicker if you phone the airline directly if you have a flight issue.

23. Choose Memories and Moments Over Possessions This Holiday Season

Trade the gift giving for a memorable travel experience.

For example, many years we have chosen to not give gifts but to do something special on Christmas. We had Christmas Day in Victoria falls in Africa and Christmas in New York.

Two unforgettable holiday memories.

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Are you traveling this holiday season? What are your best holiday travel tips?

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