The holidays are finally here!
Today is predicted to be busiest travel day of the year – 112 million passengers are expected to fly, drive or hit the rails, to head home and spend time with their loved ones for the holidays.
Traveling at Christmas can be fun and exciting, but it can also be extremely stressful.
Travellers have to navigate longer than usual lines, extra flight delays, and inclement weather, not to mention extra scrutiny at security (which can be miserable enough on quiet travel days) as people pack gifts – and everything under the sun – for family and friends.
This year, I’ve spent several hundred hours in the air on more than 50 flights, so I’ve spent my fair share of time navigating through some of North America’s busiest airports.
Although I won’t be one of the 46 million passengers flying home this Christmas, I wanted to share my top 5 tips for staying sane when you fly, especially during the Christmas travel rush
#1 Check In Online
Most airlines allow you to check in from the comfort of your sofa, 24 hours in advance of your flight. This comes in handy if you are delayed getting to the airport, or face long(er) lines at security.
Unless you are a frequent flier or have the luxury of airline status, you will probably need to pay for checked baggage. Make sure you do this when you check in – not only is it cheaper than paying at the airport, but you’ll save some valuable time that can be used to explore the duty free store for last minute gifts!
Better yet, you can also avoid playing airplane seat roulette by picking your seat in advance and hopefully avoiding that dreaded middle seat – yuck!
#2 Travel In (Quiet) Comfort
One of the best pieces of travel advice I ever received was to invest in a good pair of noise cancelling headphones.
Not only will you get to enjoy the in-flight movies in full Dolby surround sound but they also have the added benefit of blocking out background noise, like unhappy passengers complaining in the departure lounge, or those people that talk or snore so loudly that even the pilots can hear them.
Best of all, they block out the sound of screaming toddlers so you can sleep like a baby.
There are lots of great options, I chose the Quiet Comfort 25 headphones by Bose. At $179.95 a pair, they are definitely one of the pricier options, but I promise you – they are worth every single penny!
#3 Sleigh Your Gift Game
One of the best things about going home for Christmas, is taking treasures from my travels throughout the year.
If like me, you love taking gifts, I highly recommend leaving them unwrapped or using gift bags instead of paper – this will avoid the inevitable disappointment of having to unwrap them when they are chosen for inspection at security, and saves you time having to re-wrap when you get to your destination.
#4 Give Yourself A Gift By Redeeming Miles/Upgrades
When I fly home for the holiday, it usually means an 8 hour flight, and that’s if I’m lucky enough to be able to get a direct flight. With that in mind, I save up the frequent flier miles and upgrades I earn throughout the year and then use them to upgrade for my holiday flight home.
Aside from early boarding and extra baggage allowance – super handy for all those gifts I’m taking home – it also gives me access to the club lounge which comes with as much free food and booze as I could possible want for the 3-4 hour wait until my flight starts boarding.
My go-to during the holidays is Baileys Hot Chocolate but you can usually expect a full bar rail to choose from to take the pain out of the wait.
There’s also a business centre with some quiet space in case I need to finish off some work before I leave.
#5 Get Strategic With Your Carry-On
Is it just me or are the overhead compartments on aircraft getting smaller, whilst carry-on luggage gets bigger and bigger?
Let’s face it, getting space for your belongings in the overhead compartments is tricky at the best of times. With all those extra travellers, including many families – it’s fairly safe to say that if you’re sitting in an economy seat you’re probably going to have to stash your stuff above someone several rows away or use it as a foot rest (assuming of course that it’s small enough to fit under the seat in front of you).
I highly recommend packing your carry-on items into two small bags – the first should be small enough to fit under the seat in front of you and would typically contain essentials like your passport, wallet, phone and other valuables. The second bag should contain non-essentials that you won’t need access to during the flight itself, so could – if needed – be checked at the gate.
Most airlines will gate check luggage free of charge (especially on smaller aircraft where overhead space is extra limited) and it removes the inevitable headache of having to find space on board the aircraft or using up valuable legroom.
It also gets returned to you plane-side at your destination so you don’t have to worry that it will get lost on the way to the baggage hall.
Have you got any other tips for travelling during the holidays? Be sure to share them with me in the comments below.
Fly safe and Happy Holidays!