Ease Holiday Travel Stress

By car or plane, tips for the savvy holiday traveler.

You may have heard the well-worn travel wisdom that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the busiest of the year, often rife with delays and cranky passengers. But there are volumes of other travel advice gems out there for those who dread the holiday rush. Try these strategies to make travel more enjoyable.

Get there really early: This may sound obvious, but your usual hour window at the airport may not cut it on a busy holiday weekend. Allow yourself even double the time for traffic, check-in lines and security. If you haven’t checked a bag, a nice gate agent may even take pity and put you on an earlier flight.

Though you may rarely allow yourself this indulgence, getting to the airport really early is a good excuse to splurge on a day pass for the lounge. If you’re an infrequent flier, you can buy one for $50 for the lounges of most legacy carriers. You’ll wait more comfortably, plus if there’s a delay or cancellation, you’ll get better service in the lounge.

Don’t drive yourself to the airport: Airport parking prices can rise dramatically around the holidays. If you fly from a smaller airport with inflexible prices, parking can be a fine idea. If your airport raises prices steeply around the holidays, get a ride.

Don’t check a bag: Yes, it’s the holidays, so you’ll have lots of presents. Why not send them ahead—along with your clothing—by post? Depending on how much you send, you’ll likely spend less than $50-and-up bag fees, and won’t have to check, wait or fight for overhead space.
Another bonus: While TSA personnel may unwrap gifts for inspection, you can ship your gifts wrapped.

Use miles wisely: Rather than spending miles to get a seat in economy, buy the seat and use your miles to upgrade. Most upgrades are a far better value than buying a seat.

Fly or drive on the holiday: It’s nice to wake up at Grandma’s house on Christmas morning, but it’s also nice to save money on a flight or not have to battle ferocious traffic. Traveling on the holidays can be a good value; conversely, days such as the Wednesday before Thanksgiving are often the most expensive.

Enjoy the ride: It’s easy to view a drive to your holiday destination as a chore. Consider building it into a vacation by adding a place you’ve wanted to explore on the way, or staying one night in a nice B&B.