Almost Perfect Holiday Travel
Avoid peak travel days and times. Try to schedule your flights and time at the airport to avoid the craziness that occurs between 6 and 9 a.m. and 2 and 6 p.m. We like flights before 6a.m. or between 9a.m. and 12 noon. Statistics show that flights early in the day are less likely to experience delays. And if you are delayed, there are more opportunities to re-book and still make your destination that day.
Book non-stop flights if possible. Winter weather can tangle flight plans and leave you stranded. Being caught mid-way through a trip in a city with no friends or family could make the holidays a bit bleak.
Travel on the holiday itself. Flights on Christmas day and New Years Eve are surprisingly sane and uncrowded.. Airline employees are more gracious than usual-they feel as sorry for you having to travel on the holiday as you feel for them having to work. Tamara and Judy have had great experiences traveling on holidays and highly recommend it. If you have children, make it an adventure.
Take advantage of your airline's flight notification feature. If your airline doesn't notify you of flight changes and departure times, put the telephone number in your cell phone and check early and often on the day of the flight to be certain all is as scheduled. You can get information on airport delays at http://www.fly.faa.gov/flyfaa/usmap.jsp and the TSA has a security checkpoint wait time calculator in the works. Take a look at the TSA Blog site where Blogger Bob keeps up a running commentary on what's going on at the major airports: http://blog.tsa.gov/
Follow the rules. Unless you're planning to protest the body-scanning machines, we assume your goal is to get through the security line quickly. If you don't travel much or aren't sure about the TSA and airline rules, check the website: www.tsa.gov or call your airline. Be prepared for the scan when you leave home-slip on shoes, no big jewelry, liquids in an approved 3-1-1 bag, and no belt if you can manage that. In fact, leave all your heavy metal at home. It will likely cause delays. See Karla's article on Avoiding a Full Body Pat Down and Tamara's piece, Carry On Carrying On.
Get to the airport early. Lines may be long, but don't panic. Get there early so you can snooze or grab a bite after passing through the security points.
Leave your valuables at home. But if you must take Aunt Gert's heirloom necklace, put it in your carry-on with medicine, a change of clothes, snacks, film-if you still use it-and fragile items such as laptops.
Shop on line and have your gifts mailed ahead. Try not to drag everything for the entire family with you on the plane-luggage limitations make this expensive and time consuming. And........
Don't wrap presents. If you must take gifts with you, nifty little bags work well for holiday giving and still stay calm during a thorough search of your carry-on.
Label everything. ID everything you take with you, including your kids. Hand carried and checked bags should be labeled inside and out with phone numbers and contact information. Kids have pockets. Use them. Put a business card or mailing label in their pockets and backpacks.
Prepare for delays. Take chargers for whatever you carry on-your laptop, cell-phones, game systems, and iPods. Don't be surprised by an extended stay in an airport, be prepared.
Have a good time. Take lots to do on the plane especially if traveling with children. Karla and Judy used to take sacks of plane toys and books for their kids-inexpensive and small, but new. The key was that whatever was in the bag had never been seen before. Every hour or so on a long flight, you can pull a "surprise" from the sack.