man at the airport learning about holiday travel tips
Financial Literacy

Key holiday travel tips

  • Take the earliest flight of the day, when airports tend to be less crowded and delays less frequent.
  • Avoid checking bags, if possible, and ship gifts ahead of time.
  • Review your credit cards for travel perks, like the use of airport lounges.

Traveling during the busy holiday season can mean long lines, extended wait times, and a higher possibility of delayed flights. And COVID-19 has made holiday travel increasingly difficult over the past couple of years.

Don’t let that deter you. In this article, we’ll give you some great holiday travel tips to help you get to your final destination stress free.

Here are some travel tips that might help you avoid surprises and deal with the ones that do pop up.

1. Avoid popular travel days

You might be surprised to learn which days are considered the busiest.

When it comes to Thanksgiving and Christmas, the most popular travel days are rightbefore and after the holiday. For Thanksgiving, most people hit the road on the two days before (Tuesday and Wednesday) and head home on the Sunday directly after the holiday. For Christmas, December 22-23 and December 26-27 are usually the busiest days for travel. Traveling on Christmas Day, especially on an early-morning flight, is one way to avoid the crowds.

2. Book early

We can’t stress this enough. If you book early, you’ll avoid the last-minute rush of holiday travelers trying to make plans. You’ll also end up getting the best deals, like paying less than the person who booked the middle seat beside you just the day before.

3. Take the first flight of the day

You know what they say: the early bird catches the worm. In this case, the early traveler gets to stay sane. Early-morning flights are generally the least crowded—think shorter security lines, boarding times, and a calmer airport lounge. And those early flights are less likely to have delays or other problems. The effects of bad weather tend to increase throughout the day, with each delay causing more problems as the day goes on. So travel early, if you can.

4. Arrive early at the airport or the train station

Give yourself ample time. Traffic jams happen, and a crowded airport or train station can take hours to navigate. You might have to check bags and make it to the right gate on time. When you start making your travel plans, give yourself a generous cushion for getting to and through your departure point.

5. Try not to check any bags

Pack light. This can be especially difficult if you’re going on a longer trip or if you have gifts to bring along (see next tip). But if it’s at all possible, pack everything you’ll need in a bag that you’ll carry on. And double-check that the size of your carry-on bag meets the airline’s requirements. Checking bags takes time and can be expensive. Don’t do it if you don’t have to.

6. Ship gifts before you leave

Bringing gifts with you will likely require you to check more bags. And it could end up being costly to bring them because most airlines charge a fee for each additional bag. And here’s another holiday travel tip: When you ship those gifts, ship far in advance. Travel isn’t the only thing that takes a little longer during the season—packages do, too.

7. Have a backup plan

Unfortunately, flights are more likely to be canceledthis year than in previous years. Thank the lingering pandemic and things like employee shortages. It’s important to create a backup plan in case your flight doesn’t end up getting off the ground. For example, can you drive to your location? You might want to check the availability of rental cars.

8. Research ahead of time

Know about COVID-19 health guidelines and requirements, TSA rules, weather reports, and cancellation policies. You may have to show a vaccination card or a negative COVID test to board your flight or train. If you’re concerned about cancellations, travel insurance could be a good option. And check weather reports for where you’re headed, so you can pack clothes that fit the climate.

9. Use alternate airports

Are there alternate airports near you that might be better for your holiday trip? Smaller airports tend to be less crowded. Using a smaller airport may mean fewer complications, and it could also be cheaper.

10. Fly direct to avoid connections

If your flight has a layover, there’s a higher probability of delay. That can impact your travel or leave you standing at baggage claim waiting for a bag that never shows up. Neither is a good way to start off your holiday. If there’s an option for a direct flight, take it.

11. Take advantage of TSA PreCheck or Global Entry

Many credit cards with travel perks include TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. If you have cards that allow you to sign up for these programs, take advantage of them. This can reduce the amount of time you spend getting to your gate. You can use the designated lines allowed by TSA rules. If you’re traveling internationally, Global Entry is particularly useful, plus it automatically gives you TSA PreCheck.

Can you use CLEAR? This travel program requires some extra security, including fingerprints and a retinal scan, but it comes with a bonus. It allows you to cut right to the front of any security lines. You can enroll in the program online and finish setting up your account once you arrive at the airport. But if you need to finish setting it up before your flight, be sure to get to the airport early.

12. Use your perks

Back to those credit cards with specific travel perks. Now is the time to determine if you can use them to gain entry to any airport lounges to enjoy a calmer space amid the holiday crowds. Most lounges will give you free drinks and snacks, and provide you with space to charge your devices. Look for any other benefits that might come in handy.

Holiday travel tips bonus

This last one is an important travel tip, in general—and just general good practice. Don’t wait until the last minute to do those things that you might forget. If you do, you’ll risk running behind and missing your flight altogether. Pack your own snacks, charge up your devices, fill out your bag tags, and pack your book of choice. Consider throwing some hand sanitizer into your bag ahead of time. You’ll thank yourself once you’ve made it safely and promptly through the airport. You’ll have time to snack on something or to watch an episode of your favorite show. And did you know that most streaming platforms will let you download content to watch later? If you want to take advantage of that perk for holiday travels, download those episodes and movies early.

We hope these holiday travel tips will make your next trip as easy and carefree as possible.

This article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to provide financial, tax or legal advice. You should consult a professional for specific advice. Best Egg is not responsible for the information contained in third-party sites cited or hyperlinked in this article. Best Egg is not responsible for, and does not provide or endorse third party products, services or other third-party content.

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