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Sanity-Saving Hacks for Holiday Travel

Grace Lower | Jul 22, 2020

Got holiday travel plans? You’re in good company. In 2017 alone, AAA projected that 107 million Americans spent the holidays away from home. As another holiday season approaches, you can expect the roads, rails, and skies to once again fill with travelers — all of whom are eager for a final getaway before the new year.

With such a huge influx of passengers, holiday travel season comes with its share of stresses, delays, and mix-ups. But with the right tools, you’ll be able to return with your holiday spirit intact.

Here are a few easy travel hacks to keep your journey happy and bright:

1.    Get the app
Downloading your transportation provider’s app not only gives you immediate access to your tickets, but you’ll also receive instant travel updates and reminder notifications. These are useful during a season of very unpredictable weather. Some providers may require you to download their app before you can access Wi-Fi or onboard movies — it helps to plan ahead!

Driving to your destination? No problem! Apps like Waze and GasBuddy will help you scout traffic-free routes and cheap gas prices.

No matter your mode of transit, save yourself a headache and download before you go.  

2.    Create a “self-care package”
Cramped seats, laughable leg-room, and long waits can bring out the Grinch in all of us. Try building a personalized “self-care package” to keep yourself feeling fresh. In a zippered pouch or gallon bag, bring the following holiday travel aids:
●    Salty and sweet snacks (bonus points if they’re holiday-themed)
●    Cozy socks
●    Pen and a pocket-sized notebook
●    Eye mask
●    Earplugs
●    Mild pain reliever, like Advil or Tylenol
●    Lip balm
●    Hand sanitizer
●    Lotion
●    Facial cleansing wipes
●    Stain-remover stick
●    Mini-deodorant
●    Gum or mini-mouthwash
●    Mini-hairbrush or comb

3.    Get bag-swag
When you’ve finally arrived at your destination, all you’ll want to do is grab your bag and go, which can get a little tricky when you can’t easily spot your suitcase. If you’re on the market for a new bag, consider purchasing luggage in a unique color or print. Or, if you’re committed to black luggage, try wrapping bright ribbon or tape around the handles. Remember to tack on a unique luggage-tag to avoid any possible mix-ups at baggage claim.

4.    Try basic economy …
Basic economy is a great cost-saving measure, but it can be a bit of a mixed bag. Sure, the discounted ticket prices are hard to beat, but many airlines charge basic economy passengers for carry-ons and seat selection, and require them to board last. Fortunately, a few work-arounds can make basic economy worth your while.

Depending on your airline, you can save big by checking a full-sized bag rather than paying for a carry-on. This has a few benefits: if you’re traveling with a companion, you can share a single suitcase with them. If you’re traveling solo, you have more room for clothing and gifts,

5.    ... but know when to prioritize comfort
Sometimes spending a little extra pays off. If you know you have a long journey ahead, buying a seat with extra leg room and comfier upholstery can be worth the extra cost. If you’re flying, you might also consider purchasing access to an airline lounge to unwind while you wait. And even if you can’t make any major upgrades, buying a seasonal snack, ordering a festive latte, or sipping on a fun cocktail at the terminal bar can add some joy to your travel grind.

6.    Consider TSA pre-check
At $85 for 5 years, TSA pre-check is a surprisingly affordable way to keep your airline experience hassle-free. No need to scramble to take off your jacket, remove your shoes, unpack your liquids, or take your laptop out of its case. You can march through quicker lines and reduced security in a fraction of the time with your TSA pre-check access.

7.    Ship your gifts (or go digital)
Is there anything more stressful than packing delicate or valuable objects in a suitcase? Save yourself potential heartbreak by shipping holiday gifts directly to your destination (many online retailers will even wrap the gift on your behalf.) You could also consider going digital by purchasing an online gift card, a Groupon, or e-tickets to an upcoming event.

8.    Be excessively early
Whether you’re stuck in gridlocked traffic or you missed your connecting flight, miscalculating your timing can dampen even the happiest holidays. Protect your travel itinerary by building in an extra 30 – 60 minutes into your holiday transportation plans. Even if you arrive too early, you’ll have the option of camping out at a coffee shop, reading a book, or going for a walk to kill time — a much better alternative to running late!

9.    Know your leftover limits
If your family is anything like mine, you’ll come away from your trip with lots of leftovers. Remember that efficient food-packing is key. Save space by storing leftovers in freezer bags, and don’t scrimp on the ice — Lifehacker has a great trick for turning sponges into tidy makeshift ice-packs.

If you’re flying, review any travel restrictions that apply to food. Keep in mind that the TSA does not allow carry-on foods that can easily “spill” or “spread.” Cranberry sauce, soup, sweet potatoes, gravy, and salad dressing are all prohibited — make sure they’re checked before your leftover dreams are wrecked!

As with any travel experience, holiday travel might not always go according to plan. It never hurts to take precautions, whether that’s monitoring local weather, asking someone to house-sit, or buying travel medical insurance . With a little bit of prep-work and a few easy hacks, you can ensure your holiday travels will be something worth celebrating.


 About the Author
Grace Lower

Grace Lower has a love for all things writing and travel. When she's not exploring new places, Grace enjoys teaching English as a Second Language, making terrible puns, and running incredibly long distances at incredibly slow speeds.

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