Photo by Fas Khan on Unsplash
The holidays are some of the busiest travel days of the year, and you want your travels to be stress-free and safe. Fortunately, we’ve compiled a list of holiday travel safety tips from experts around the world to help you do just that.
For instance, if weather strands you in an airport – or if you want to avoid that nightmare in the first place – these Thanksgiving and holiday travel tips can help keep you moving:
1. Be flexible about your departure and arrival airports.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the following major airports had more than one-quarter of their departing flights delayed in November 2018:
- Chicago Midway
- San Francisco
- La Guardia
- Chicago O’Hare
To avoid those bottlenecks, try leaving from:
- San Jose
- New York JFK
- White Plains
Whatever you do, avoid these airports:
- Hagerstown, Md. (46% of departures are delayed)
- Worcester, Mass. (32%)
- Devils Lake, N.D. (31%)
What’s the best airport for getting out of Dodge? Surprisingly, it’s St. Cloud, Minn. (100% on-time).
Similarly, major airports where arriving flights were delayed more than one-quarter of the time in November 2018 include:
- San Francisco
- La Guardia
The worst for on-time arrivals? Houghton/Hancock, Mich. (42% of arrivals are delayed).
Instead of letting Boston mess with your plans, try flying into Providence (81.4% on-time arrivals). And you can set your watch by St. Cloud, Portsmouth, N.H., and Pago Pago, American Samoa. They all had 100% on-time arrival rates in November 2018.
2. Avoid regional air carriers.
Regional airlines – the ones that fly those little planes that connect small airports to larger hubs – are often responsible for the bulk of delays during the holidays. Why?
- The airports these carriers serve may be more susceptible to bad weather
- They may lack sufficient weather-removal equipment
- There may be issues getting planes out of those airports and back to the hubs
- They may not get top priority for takeoffs and landings
If you have to fly into or out of a regional airport over the holidays, you might want to ...
3. Give yourself time – like, lots of time.
According to popular travel blogger Cailin O'Neal of Travel Yourself, “Give yourself extra time for travel interruptions and delays. This is the busiest travel time of the year, and typically the weather isn't the best, so travel delays and cancelations are bound to be expected.
If you give yourself an extra day or two to arrive at your destination, not only will you give yourself peace of mind of getting there in time, but you might also end up with extra time to rest and relax!”
4. Plan your Plan B.
If you’re trying to get to Albuquerque but can’t, can you get to Amarillo, rent a car and drive to Albuquerque? Maybe you’ll miss out on the eggnog, but you’ll get there in time for the stockings.
Figure this out before you have to.
Check train and bus schedules from your intermediate destination to your final destination, and check car-rental availability.
Consider reserving a car (using an aggregator like AutoSlash to maximize your selection) or making a train/bus reservation, even though there’s a 95% chance of you cancelling that reservation.
You might also want to take 10 minutes and see what’s happening in Amarillo over the holidays; at the very least, you’ll get some good ideas for your next pleasure trip.
The more you line up now, when you’re thinking straight, the better off you’ll be when trouble hits.
5. Pack for the worst.
When you’re packing, pack your carryon with:
- Several pairs of underwear and socks
- A change of clothes
Try to swing it so you have no checked luggage. Your family will understand if you have to wear the same shirt two days in a row.
6. Pursue simultaneous strategies.
If you’re stuck in an airport line waiting for a gate agent, multi-task.
- While in line, call your airline to try to rebook your flight. You might get faster attention than from that counter agent way off in the distance.
- Call the international customer-service line instead of the domestic line. They’re often able to take your call when domestic lines are jammed.
- Try social media. Many airlines will react to social-media requests faster than a phone call. See if tweeting at the airline can get you on a flight to your arrival airport.
7. Go against the grain.
According to Celine and Dan Brewer of popular travel-with-kids blog Baby Can Travel, “When we travel over the holidays, we do our best to avoid traveling when everyone else is. We’ve found the price of flights to be significantly lower if we leave a week before the rush. We also enjoy less crowds at the airport and at our destination!”
Getting stranded in the airport
Here’s what to do if you have to pull an all-nighter in the airport:
8. Pack like a backpacker.
When packing your bag, prepare for the possibility of being delayed and having to live in an airport for a while. In addition to a change of clothes, pack a lightweight blanket, washcloth, towel, toothbrush, and inflatable pillow.
9. Be prepared to explain why you’re “staging” a sleepover.
You probably won’t be kicked out of the airport, but you will need to show airport staff a boarding pass for an outbound flight. Make sure it’s available in hand or on your phone.
10. Ask for advice.
Airports generally don’t have designated sleeping areas, but some areas in the terminal have better security than others. Ask airport security staff what they advise, then put down roots near a video camera and other travelers.
11. Get creative when finding a safe sleeping area.
Find a bench instead of a chair. Explore the airport, find the cushiest restaurant and ask the manager if you can snooze in one of the booths.
12. Explore buying a VIP lounge pass.
A day/night lounge pass may cost you $50-plus, but compare that to the price of a hotel room. And the amenities alone make it worth the price.
Maximizing Your Holiday Travel Experience
If your holiday plans are far broader than just going home and you want to get the most out of your holiday travels, take these nuggets of wisdom from Australia’s own The Travel Tart:
13. Expect the unexpected.
The best travel experiences are the ones I didn't see coming. That usually means wandering around aimlessly and going down streets that aren't on your map. Just make sure you know how to get back if you become lost!
14. Speak the language.
Learn the words “hello,” “goodbye,” “please,” and “thank you” if you're going somewhere where English isn't the main language.
15. Power up with protein.
If you're on the road for a long trip and need some protein, salami and highly processed cheese are the best mobile protein backup.
16. Back up your passport.
When traveling overseas, have a scanned copy of your passport in your phone, stored in your cloud email, and on a USB stick, and have a couple of photocopies stored as backup.
17. Read your policy.
When taking out travel insurance, read the terms and conditions carefully to make sure your needs are covered. Taking out travel insurance for medical is a no-brainer, especially if something goes wrong. Your health is the highest importance.
18. Think twice.
Use a bit of common sense in regards to safety when traveling, especially during the holidays. If you wouldn't do it at home, don't do it overseas!
Also, if you can't afford to lose something, don't take it with you!
19. Tell your bank.
Inform your bank of the countries you are going to so they know that transactions from other countries appearing on your credit card won't alert their fraud teams.
20. Load up on apps.
Most useful apps for your phone: Google Maps, your bank's app, XE Currency Converter, Google Translate.
21. Look after the homestead.
Have someone you trust look after your house while you're away. If this can't happen, have your neighbors empty your mailbox regularly so it doesn't overflow. If you can, set some light timers around your house.
22. Pack cards.
When I travel overseas, I take one Visa and one Mastercard. Both are accepted everywhere. In general, I prefer using a credit card to pay for what I need overseas as I generally find it’s the best way to avoid things like cash withdrawal fees – and it's usually the best exchange rate. Plus I'd rather not carry massive wads of cash.
23. Get your boots cleaned.
If you’re after a free boot clean, visit Australia and declare that you have “soiled boots” on the entry card. The Helpful Quarantine Service will take them away to be thoroughly washed and cleaned, ready for the next time you wear them – free of charge!
24. Go where others don't.
One out-of-the-box tip to save money traveling: The cheapest countries to visit are ones where recent riots have scared away all the tourists. I did this when I visited Argentina in 2002, one year after they defaulted on a loan and the peso was floated. I saved bucketloads! Just make sure your travel insurance covers you for that destination.
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