Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Travel Tips for the Holidays

By Sheila
December 5, 2012

It’s that time of year when many of us are traveling to spend time with loved ones during the holidays.   While that can be fun and exciting, for many people travel can be stressful too.  I am offering some tips here to help your holiday travel go as smoothly as possible, and in the end, save you money.   Although I don’t usually sell myself an authority on anything, I am a flight attendant for my day job.  I have logged lots of miles for fun and work, and seen both sides of the travel experience.  I could probably write a book on the crazy things I have witnessed, but for now, here are some suggestions to consider.  I know many of these are VERY basic, but it amazes me how often people are very ill-prepared for travel.  Much of this information is focused on flying, yet being prepared applies to all modes of travel and makes it more enjoyable for all parties involved. 
In no particular order, here you are:
1.       Allow plenty of time.  At this time of year, airport parking areas fill up quickly, and costs can vary greatly, so have a back-up parking plan if you know this to be the case in your area.  If you aren’t sure, call your local airport, or see if they have information regarding this on their website. Check-In and Security lines can be extra long as well.
2.       Have all your documents organized and readily accessible.  This will include your Government ID such as a driver’s license or passport, as well as your tickets or record locators.  Also any car rental or hotel information.  I like the app “Trip-It” which will organize all your info in one place. If you use a smart phone, this is a great opportunity to make it work for you.  I have a photocopy of this info, as well as my health insurance ID card in my checked bag as well, for long trips.
3.       Know your airline’s policy regarding checked bags.  If they charge additional for bags over a certain weight, you may be better off packing in 2 smaller bags.  Weigh your bag ahead of time at home.  These expenses can add up fast, so know what you will be paying for.
4.       Do not wrap presents in advance.  If TSA has any questions regarding a package they cannot inspect, they will unwrap it.
5.       Dress appropriately for travel.  Wear comfortable clothing and dress in layers so that you can moderate your own temperature.  Inevitably passengers are too warm/cold and this can vary greatly in different parts of the plane and many buildings not within our control. 
6.       Know your airline’s policy for carry-on bags.  Do not exceed this limit.  It is time-consuming for airline personnel to have to stop passengers and check bags at the last minute, and inconsiderate to other passengers.  Some airlines charge additional for this, as well. 
7.       In your carry-on bag you should have: 
a.       Any critical medications in original packaging (including your airsick meds if you need them).   Reading material and/or stuff to entertain you (and your kids).  Also, stick labels on your electronics, so if they do get left behind on the plane or security, you can be paged or notified.  Include your phone number.  Be prepared to take your laptop out and place it in a bin by itself to go through security.  No need to take your I-pad out.  If your stuff needs charged, do this ahead of time and don’t forget your chargers.  I keep all of mine in a small bag in my carry-on.  Don’t forget headphones for you and the little ones.  Please do not play music/games/movies without headphones.  This is guaranteed to annoy those seated around you. 
b.      Bring any critical food/wipes/diapers/formula/etc.  Bring extra in case of delays or re-routes. Most airplanes do not stock these items. If you are not sure, call and ask ahead of time.
c.       A wrap, sweater or blanket for the plane to keep warm, if needed.  I always travel with a very large scarf, which doubles as a sweater, blanket, picnic cloth, etc.  Airplanes ore often kept cooler so that anyone prone to being airsick is more comfortable.  Nothing worse than being nauseated and too warm! For long flights bring your neck pillow and ear plugs as well.
d.      Do not exceed the TSA limits on liquids, or you may be throwing away that expensive perfume you brought.  At this time it is 3.4 ounces per container, and all containers need to fit in a quart size (see-through) bag.  Check the TSA website for particulars regarding baby formula, medication, etc.  This includes lip balm, lotion, gels, etc.  You do not want to be the one that is pulled aside and have your luggage rifled while they pull stuff out that you now have to throw away because you are out of time.  Have this bagged separately, and have it readily accessible.  Also, people want to argue about things like toy guns, knives, etc.  Really?  Enough said.
e.      I often bring an empty water container and fill it on the inside of security at a fountain or self serve restaurant.  I always ask permission, but they don’t seem to mind.  Greener planet, more green in my wallet.  I hate paying $5 for a bottle of water.
Stay tuned for more travel-related posts in the future.  I have tips for wardrobe planning for various types of vacations, and I’ll be including them in upcoming posts.  In the meantime, take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy this time with your family. Bon Voyage!

What do you always bring with you when you travel?  Anything special that always seems to make your trip more enjoyable or go more smoothly?

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