Airplane Wing Over IslandsThe countdown for Santa has begun.  As your destination Christmas looms closer, it’s time to plan ahead for your traveling strategy—yes, strategy.  Holiday travels need strategy.  The week of Christmas is THE busiest travel week of the year and airports are crowded and crazy!

It’s the beginning of December, if you have not purchased your flights and hotels, you will expect to pay more for flights – the average daily increase in the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas for flights is $5 per day.  Remember, the more seats sold on a plane, the higher the fare.  If the flight you want is close to full, it could cost you hundreds…yes hundreds more.  You are also increasing your risk of sold out flights to your destination…….so raise your right hand and repeat after me

 I, (state your name), promise to plan ahead for holiday travel this year.  I promise to book my air six to eight months in advance and use my savings for wine and chocolate.  #justsayin

(1) Get to the airport early.  Repeat – get to the airport early!!!  Plan to arrive two hours before departure for domestic flights and three hours before departure for international flights.  It’s not just about getting through security in the nick of time, it’s also about comfort and easing your stress levels.  The minimum check in time for domestic flights is typically 30-45 minutes prior to departure time and 60 minutes for international travel.  This time varies and may increase depending on your departing airport. This means if you have not made it through the line to check in by the cutoff time before your flight leaves, you will be denied boarding.  Remember if you are checking bags, the bags must be processed by the airport agent prior to the cutoff time or you will be denied boarding–even if you’ve checked in online.

(2) Get to your gate early.  I cannot stress this enough.  Nothing is worse than waiting an hour at your gate standing up.  Some carriers also close boarding ten to fifteen minutes before departure – don’t cut it too close.

(3)  Review the new TSA rules and regulations.  If you are traveling with Global Entry some of the newest changes will not apply to you.  For everyone else, please wear shoes you can easily take on/off, remove your ipad and laptop ( and any electronics larger than a cell phone) from your carryon and place them separately in the bin.  Food must also now be separated out, so pack it in a bag that you can easily remove.

(4) Plan ahead for your gifts.  If you are bringing gifts with you, be sure to keep them unwrapped as TSA will require you to unwrap them at the airport.  Consider shipping your gifts to your destination ahead of time.  Remember, putting expensive items in your checked luggage is never a good idea.

(5) Bring a book, a magazine and a deck of cards.  Sometimes a change of pace will keep bored minds at bay.  If you bring your ipad or laptop, you’ll notice a plethora of plugs now available at most gates.

(6) Be mindful of the weight and bulkiness of your carryon.  Even if your carryon is the correct size to go into the overhead bins, if the bag is overweight, the flight attendants may require you to gate check it.  Also, heavy bags in the overhead bins can hurt other passengers as you put them up or take them down.  Don’t risk ruining your holiday because of a slipped disc because you had to bring every shoe in your closet.

(7) Connect smart – be sure to use the flight displays to get up to date gate departure information (departure gates do change from time to time).  Download your carriers mobile app to get realtime updates.  Consider waiting until you get near your gate to do any airport shopping, noshing, drinking or restroom breaks.

(8) Snacks.  Bring non-liquid snacks with you in your bag to mitigate airport munchies and keep you out of the long holiday-season restaurant lines.  Please remember to pack them separately so you can quickly clear TSA.

(9) And lastly, remember your holiday spirit.  Smile, wish your check-in agents, gate agents, and flight crew a happy holiday…..they may need to hear it and it does wonders for the heart!

Next:  Navigating the TSA during the Holidays.