This may not be true for everyone, but living near the PDX (Portland, Oregon) airport usually means very little stress about travel. That is until it’s time for holiday travel. Just this Black Friday my husband and I were traveling to Arizona, of all the hot travel destinations. Too bad we not only missed the flight but were on standby for six hours! What followed was a day spent at airport bars filled with passive aggressive stares—in typical Portlander fashion.
Regardless of where you’re from, how easy travel usually is – or isn’t, come time for holiday travel we all need a few tips and tricks to get by.
There are the tried and true tricks for booking flights at any time of the year. Such as making Google alerts to track flight prices. That way you’re alerted immediately when a cheap deal’s available. There’s the usage of points. Then the churning of cards for points – ensuring cheaper future travel. The list goes on and on, but none of it really tells you what to do about holiday travel. A time for travel when prices are always surging, and the dates are pretty locked in place.
Since asking your family to move the dates is probably not an option here are a few other ideas for getting good flights. The most important thing is to buy early. While prices occasionally drop later in the season, it’s a gamble not worth taking. Since the month leading up to holiday travel can see prices surging $100 plus over your usual budget. Flexibility is important. Can you avoid the busiest holiday travel days with a longer trip? Check out nearby airports. Be willing to travel at odd times in the night or morning. Basically, take flights that aren’t attractive (but never budget airlines like Spirit). Finally, take advantage of business class deals. With so many people flying basic economy business upgrades can make the hefty holiday price tag worth the trip.
It’s All About the Luggage
Now, this can be a complicated topic. Trust me, as an avid over packer, the idea of limiting my space can be particularly stressful. The truth is though that checking a bag can result in undue delays. I would never have missed my Black Friday flight had there not been a storm in Boston canceling all Boston flights. I found myself at the back of a line of 20 people all needing their flights rerouted. It being the holidays everyone was desperate. Even if I’d arrived an hour earlier, that line would have done me in.
So, while this may be the more difficult point to be made – use a carry on bag! It will make your holiday travel all the better! You’ll zoom past bag check, right into the final security check.
So you’ve got your luggage picked out and your flights bought? Now you just have the airport to worry about. The most important tips might be the most obvious ones. Check into your flight 24 hours beforehand. This is especially important if you don’t have pre-assigned seats. Either way, it allows you to avoid long check-in lines. Don’t think that means you don’t have to come in early! With holiday travel bringing so many to the airports you should still arrive earlier than you usually do.
To help determine how early check out the Gate Guru app. You’ll receive real-time updates on the wait time at your airport’s security check. Even with this handy app though, you’ll still want to plan for the unexpected. Something could happen as you’re driving in to cause severe delays. Remember that’s the pitfall of holiday travel. No need to panic, be early.
Once you’ve gotten through all of security and found your gate take advantage of that extra time. Get yourself some food to avoid the misery of hangry traveling. Pop in your headphones and relax to your favorite music. The hard part is over – soon you’ll be with family enjoying the holidays. Instead of stressing over holiday travel!
What About the Gifts?
If you love holiday gift shopping, a carry-on bag can seem particularly impossible. Where are you going to store all of your gifts? There are a few options that can resolve this problem. The right one will depend on your circumstances.
First of all, if you do most of your shopping online, have the gifts sent to the house you spend the holidays at. Tell the mail getting adult to put them in a closet for you. Sure, when you arrive, you’ll have some presents to wrap…. Just think though, how nice and empty your bag will be! How quickly you’ll glide through airport security. The elimination of all that stress all by picking a different delivery address. Not to mention the points that can help with that flight of yours.
If online shopping is not your thing, but you’ve got PTO to burn, arrive early to your planned destination. Do all your present shopping right there with the family. You can even make trips with different members. It’s actually an excellent way to carve out one on one time that’s otherwise hard to come by. Of course, this option does require having a bit of time on your hands.
Now, if shopping had already begun to feel daunting, this option might be what you’ve secretly been hoping for. Try convincing your family to do a white elephant gift exchange. That way you’ll only need to pack one wrapped present with you. No worries about lost space in your carry on. No concerns about the time needed or turbo wrapping speed required. Just a simple gift and a fun family game to warm your holiday nights.