If you’re one of the nearly 50% of Americans planning to travel this holiday season, you can expect some major travel disruptions. Hopefully, you paid attention to the travel experts and made arrangements months ahead of time. But if you didn’t, there’s a good chance this winter season will come with some nightmares you'd rather avoid. Flights have already experienced major delays so far this year, and there’s a higher chance most won’t leave on time. There’s also the threat of winter storms and the ever-present holiday travel rush. Of course, that doesn't mean you should cancel your trip or feel discouraged. You can use the following tips to avoid various travel nightmares this holiday season.
Book airport rides ahead of time
You can expect quite treacherous driving conditions if you live in a region prone to winter storms. Your safest way of getting to the airport is to book a ride and be driven by a pro who knows how to navigate the toughest driving conditions so you don’t miss your flight or end up stuck on the road.
But, it’s better to pre-book as early as possible as most ride-hailing companies experience peak demand during the holiday season. You’ll likely find most ride-sharing companies overbooked if you leave it too late. Also, travel time to most airports will likely increase no thanks to bigger travel crowds on the road.
Some ride-hailing apps like Lyft are already accepting early bookings for holiday travels, anticipating the heavy schedule ahead. Therefore, consider taking advantage of such offers. It’s also best you choose an early pick-up time, ideally a couple of hours before departure time. Spending an extra hour in the airport waiting for your flight is more tolerable than being stuck on the road for the same duration.
Send your bags and luggage ahead of you
Few things can beat a luggage-free journey. Not many consider this option, but sending your bags ahead of your travel date is one smart way to eliminate stress. Doing this is super important if you’re traveling overseas and want to avoid the extra flight costs for excess luggage. You can look up reliable shipping services covering routes to your destination and find out how you can get your stuff ahead. This way, you can reduce how much time you spend at the airport by avoiding long check-ins and baggage claim issues. Also, you can escape luggage delays, which are very common during peak holiday travel seasons. With your luggage ahead of you, you’ll feel more relaxed and can navigate a crowded airport with greater flexibility.
Use a luggage storage solution
Following from the previous point, you can also consider luggage storage upon arrival at your destination, so you don’t waste time handling heavy suitcases. A quick research can reveal the options in your chosen destination. For example, if you’re flying out to London, England, you can conduct a simple online search such as Victoria Station luggage storage to find the best options near you. Remember that winter holiday travel mostly involves bulky clothing, snow gear, and other cumbersome winter accessories. Using luggage storage can help eliminate the stress of carrying heavy bags, allowing you to move around with greater freedom.
Know the most affected airports
As it happens every year, some airports in the US will be affected most by unpredictable inclement weather. Some publications have listed locations like New York’s JFK, Denver (DEN), Dallas Fort-Worth (DFW), Baltimore (BWI), Orlando (MCO), Las Vegas (LAS), and Chicago Midway (MDW), to mention a few, to be some of the most badly-hit. These are only predictions, but it’s worth knowing which airports to avoid if you don’t want to be caught up in this predicament. The mentioned locations and airports are based on data about flight cancellations and delays for the past three months.
But do some research also, depending on your location. Find out which airports have a bad track record of cancellations during winter Holidays. You can compare data from the past three years to give you an idea of what to expect. You can also visit flight websites and social media platforms for the latest updates regarding some flight changes. This way, you’ll know what airports or flights to avoid.
Avoid peak travel days
Many travelers already know the tip and why it’s important, but avoiding peak travel days can be very challenging. According to reports, November 26th will be the busiest, with 3.2 million expected air passengers. That means booking your trip on that day (or any day close to it) will mean dealing with heavy travel crowds and hiked prices.
Most people have schedule constraints that make it almost impossible to book their flight on weekdays. But you can try two things.
One, start planning ahead of time. Decide that you want to book a flight on a weekday, and let that guide your schedule leading up to the day of departure. You can notify your employer weeks before time about your travel plans and make the necessary work adjustments to free you on that day. You’ll also have enough time to cancel other commitments before time. Alternatively, choose flexible dates when searching online for flights so that you can find the best prices or rates and book your flight accordingly. You’ll enjoy more freedom, less stress, and better prices if you travel mid-week compared to weekends.
Download the best travel apps
You’ll find countless mobile apps that will help make your holiday travel experience a lot easier, cheaper, and safer. But you’ll also find apps designed to make flying significantly better.
For example, some apps, like Hopper, can give you the best flight prices so you can compare the options and decide which is better. If you’ve already booked a flight with an airline, you can download their app to help you track and monitor changes in your flight time, important updates, and cancellations without visiting the website.
If your airline does not have an app yet, consider downloading other apps like FlightAware to get the same information about various flights. You can check from the app if your flight will depart on time before you set off from home. These flight apps can even allow family and loved ones to track your flight in real-time, knowing when you arrive or what time to meet you at the airport.
Obtain a backup ATM card
Many have felt that mini-heart attack when they feel their pockets and don’t find their wallets. This nightmarish situation can throw you into sudden panic mode, especially if your wallet (or purse) contains your credit and ATM cards. How else will you do your holiday shopping when your ATM card is lost or stolen? Before you leave for your trip, contact your bank to obtain a backup ATM card.
Also, print out all your credit card accounts and photocopy your passport. However, keep them in a separate and secure location, preferably in one of your travel bags. When your wallet goes missing, you can quickly access your cash with your backup card. You’ll have printed copies of your documents when you need to recover or cancel any of your accounts.
Have a backup plan for accommodation and transportation
You may have secured your accommodation and transportation arrangements ahead of time, but the unpredictable nature of holiday travel can mess up your arrangements. Consider a preemptive way to address and navigate this common travel headache during holidays, including creating a plan B. Inclement weather can cause flight cancellations, affecting your accommodation arrangements and transportation. But a backup option will keep your travel plans from falling apart. Look for alternative transportation modes while making flexible accommodation arrangements. You can also have a backup flight option, just in case. This way, you can easily initiate your plan B when an unforeseen challenge ruins your initial plan. That will give you some level of control over your travel schedule and help minimize stress and frustration.
Don’t forget anything at home
This point may sound obvious, but you’ll be surprised by how often travelers forget important things at home, from travel documentation to holiday gear. Don’t let that happen to you this holiday season. Since you still have enough time, list everything you’ll need for your trip and start assembling them. At least keep them in one location so you don’t forget any when you start packing.
If you can't trust your memory too well, you can use packing apps to handle your packing needs. Type your travel destination, trip duration, weather forecast, and activities into an app like PacPoint. Watch it generate a list of clothes, equipment, accessories, documentation, and medication you should pack. You can pack according to the list generated, ensuring that you don’t forget anything at home.
Check the weather at your destination and pack accordingly
Knowing the weather conditions in your destination will help you pack accordingly and prepare you for potential issues. For example, you can anticipate potential road transport difficulties, poor visibility, flight cancellation, hotel booking issues, and other disruptions caused by inclement weather. This way, you can create a contingency plan.
Also, it’s easier to adjust your travel schedule when you’re more informed about potential storms, blizzards, heavy snow, and other weather-related challenges. It also allows you to choose the right clothing and make your travel experience more comfortable.