Once again, we are entering one of the busier times in the travel year. This is a time where business travelers are joined by throngs of families trying to make it to their holiday celebrations. In order to help things move a little more smoothly this year, I've put together a few of my favorite holiday travel tips.
1.Pack a good attitude
More than anything, the right attitude can keep travel from being an unnecessarily frustrating experience. Holiday travel is a lot like rush hour in a big city; everyone is trying to get to the same place at the same time. This causes traffic jams and delays, and we should all expect this by now.
Holiday travel is the same; there will be delays. There may be delays of several hours, but the airlines will do the best they can to get you to your destination. Delays will either be caused by weather or mechanical reasons.
If your delay is weather related, you'll have plenty of company to share in your misery. Make a new friend and share travel horror stories if you have one. You'll feel better for it, I promise.
If your delay is mechanical, then know that someone is doing their job and thinks that your safety is at risk. It's better to be cautious than sorry.
Whatever you do, please don't yell at the airline employees, it won't help and it won't win you any friends on the other side of the counter.
2. Don't wrap your gifts
When it comes time to inspect your checked and carry-on baggage, the TSA may need to unwrap any wrapped gifts you may have with you. Save yourself some frustration by wrapping them when you arrive at your destination. I've found that gift bags are a great alternative to wrapping paper.
An even better alternative is to use reusable grocery bags as gift bags, this way the wrapping is actually useful after the gift has been unwrapped. Some reusable bags are actually quite nice handsome, so keep an eye out for bags that might work.
3. Let online shopping simplify your packing
If you are going to order gifts online, you may be able to save yourself some trouble by having your gifts sent directly to your destination. You'll need an accomplice to intercept and store packages, but you won't have to worry about the items breaking due to rough airline handling.
As an added bonus, you'll likely need to check fewer bags when you travel which is nice considering all of the baggage fees that are all too common now.
4. Don't forget the ice
TSA has recently changed their rules about bringing ice and other frozen items through security. If the item is solid at the time that you take it through security, it counts as a solid even if it can later melt into liquid form.
This may not sound like a big change, but it is. Foods that require refrigeration can now be packed in your carry-on. Want to bring a special cheese or pastry item to Thanksgiving? No problem. I like to fill a freezer bag with water and freeze it, this goes into the bottom of a soft sided ice chest.
This also opens up the possibility of bringing home a frozen container of your aunts famous chicken soup without risking putting it in your checked luggage. Details of this change can be found on the TSA blog.
If your ice chest fits in a larger carry-on, you'll want to take it out for the security screening as TSA doesn't like bags within bags.
5. Review the TSA guidelines
If you only travel once or twice a year then reviewing the TSA guidelines before you travel is time well spent. There's nothing worse than realizing that what you thought was a benign item turns out to be on the TSA's forbidden items list. Head over to the TSA Traveler's Website for all of the latest information.
That's it for my holiday travel tips. Plan for a busy travel season and take things as they come. Just remember that panicking and yelling at people won't help you and you'll be fine. If you have any holiday travel tips that you'd like to share, please share them in the comments section below.
Update 11/21/2009: The TSA blog just published an article about tips for holiday travelers that you may find informative. Head over to the TSA blog for details.
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