If you’re flying this holiday season, here’s some advice from expert travelers on how to fly smart and stay sane.
Book your flight and hotel now. Use websites such as Orbitz.com, Kayak.com, WhichBudget.com and LastMinute.com, FareCompare.com, Priceline.com and Yapta.com to search and compare the best airfares and times.
Book your flight early in the morning, so if a flight is delayed or cancelled, you’ll have a better chance of getting on another flight later that day.
Have your passport ready. If you’re traveling out of the country, make sure you understand the country’s passport requirements and have paperwork in order.
Avoid the busiest commuter times: Monday mornings, Friday evenings and Sundays. Instead, fly on the least crowded days: Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Don’t fly peak holiday travel days. During peak holiday travel season, the day before and after Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s are usually the busiest days to travel. Instead, fly on the day of a holiday. If you have to travel on a high-traffic day, fly early in the morning for fewer delays—afternoon flights tend to incur more delays and cancellations. Or, consider the red eye and fly overnight, between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Avoid connecting flights if possible. The lower fare you may receive isn’t worth the extra work and stress if you miss the connecting flight. If you can afford it, book a flight with zero connections. If not, book them with plenty of time between flights asweather, air traffic, crew connections and other factors affect airline schedules.
Pack carry-on only – it will save you the baggage fee and get you on the plane and out of the airport faster. If you’re going to have to check luggage, pay your baggage fee ahead of time online, it’s usually a bit cheaper. Also weigh your baggage ahead of time and make sure it is less than 50 pounds to avoid an additional fee.
Ship gifts ahead of time. Once your flight is booked, head to the post office and mail gifts to your destination ahead of time. You’ll have to pay shipping, of course, but you’ll save on extra baggage fees and negotiating that giant dinosaur through security check. An easier option, shop online for gifts and have them delivered to your destination. Gift-wrapping is available through many websites.
Bring your own snacks. You don’t want to get hungry on the road, so pack your favorite snacks in your carry on, so if you get hungry, you’re not at the mercy of the airline’s snack schedule. Also bring wet naps and hand sanitizer to clean your seat and tray table, as airplanes and airports are full of germs.
Pack some books and magazines and listen to your favorite music on your iPod or smartphone—they help make the time pass quicker. Remember, you can’t bring water through the security check, so buy a bottle once you get to your flight’s gate.
Print your boarding pass ahead of time. The night before or day of the flight, print out your boarding pass. Make sure your seat assignment is indicated on the airline’s check-in page.
Get to the airport as early as possible—at least two hours ahead of your boarding time (not flight time), if not more. If you don’t plan on printing out your boarding pass ahead of time, take advantage of the boarding pass kiosks at most check-in gates. They will save you time spent in line, and most gate employees are happy to help you get your pass. Have the credit card on hand with a name that matches the name on the reservation.
Know what to expect at the gate. To get through the gate as efficiently as possible, have your driver’s license and boarding pass in hand, remove metal jewelry, loose change, shoes, belt, jacket, cell phone and place them in the plastic bins, and open and remove your laptop. Remember to remain patient and polite—you don’t want to upset a TSA agent. Also, bottled water is not allowed through security, so wait to get to the gate to buy water, coffee and other snacks.
Eat well and stay rested. One of the keys to reducing stress and staying healthy on the road is to take good care of yourself. The holidays are a minefield of sugary junk foods and alcohol, so try and balance it out with lots of fruits, vegetables and water. Be prepared and pack healthy snacks to bring on your drive or flight. Bananas, apples and healthy snack bars are good travel options. Also drink plenty of water and get enough sleep—two key factors in keeping your immune system strong and staying healthy. Turn off your phone and computer close to bed time, and start “powering down” from your long days.
Don’t forget that Hoyt Livery now makes booking all your ground transportation easy. From home to the airport, to your destination city, we can arrange it all in over 450 cities in the US and Canada. Safe travels and enjoy your holidays!