We're excited to share this post from our partners at BabyCenter! Every week, we will be bringing you the best parenting and lifestyle stories from the experts at BabyCenter, including this post from Kristina Sauerwein about making holiday travel as smooth as possible.
No doubt you've noticed the tinsel, twinkle-light Christmas trees in stores and heard carols on the radio. Although it does seem early to get decked out for the holidays, the season is rapidly approaching and it is not too early to plan holiday air travel.
To help you avoid hassles and extra costs associated with holiday air travel, here are 10 tips from Christine Frietchen, Editor in Chief of ConsumerSearch.com, a site that helps consumers make informed purchasing decisions in everything from electronics to home and garden goods to health and beauty items to cars.
- For booking air travel, start yesterday. This year is going to be tough for snagging the choice Christmas flights. With Christmas falling on a Sunday, there's already a scramble for Friday-to-Monday (or Tuesday) trips. Start looking and booking now.
- Be as flexible as you can. It's hard during the holidays to be flexible, but if you can depart on Thursday, for example, instead of Friday, you can save $100 per ticket in some markets.
- When booking flights with connections, be mindful of the connecting city. Winter weather in popular connecting cities like Chicago or Minneapolis can throw a big wrench in your plans. Though a nonstop flight might cost more, it could be worth it if the only connection options are dicey delay-prone cities.
- Don't forget to check nearby airports. Although it can be a hassle to drive an extra 50 or 100 miles to a more distant airport, it can be worth checking. For a family, saving $50 per ticket will more than make up for the extra gas.
- Check in at home. Most airlines now allow you to check in via computer or smartphone as well as print your boarding pass. If you don't need to check bags, that means you can head straight for the security screening line.
Keep reading for more holiday travel tips!
- Consider trip insurance for holiday vacation travel. If you're spending big bucks on a holiday all-inclusive resort, for example, a snowstorm in Chicago or Philadelphia can result in a ton of delayed and cancelled flights. Even if you wouldn't normally consider buying travel insurance, this is a good time to consider it.
- Pack light. With checked bags now costing a minimum of $25 each for most airlines, consider taking just a few outfits and doing laundry wherever you're visiting. Additionally, if you'll be staying with family, ask if it's okay to borrow shampoo, lotion, toothpaste, a hair dryer and other essentials.
- Ship gifts ahead. If taking gifts with you means the difference between checking or not checking a bag, think about shipping gifts ahead of you. It will probably be cheaper than paying bag fees (depending on the size and number of gifts, of course). At the same time, if you can fit all of your gifts in one checked bag, and carry on most of your own belongings, $25 might end up lots cheaper than paying to ship. So do the math. (This is my addition: shop for gifts via sites such as Amazon or Zappos, which offer free shipping options, or consult FreeShipping.org for deals from your favorite retailers. This way, you don't have to worry about lugging an extra bag or checking it in. Also, consider shipping your gifts home or, better yet, sweet talk out-of-town family to give you gift cards.)
- Bring snacks with you. Although some airports are getting better, healthy and reasonably priced snacks can be hard to find—and you might be stuck in long lines to get the snacks. Plus, if it's the holidays, you can pretty much count on flight delays. Think about packing a homemade mix of nuts and dried fruit, or pack your own baggies of pretzels, as well as your child's favorite nibbles. (Another tip from me: Bring a plastic water bottle so you can fill up at a drinking fountain instead of buying bottled water for an outrageous amount. Dehydration is common on flights and can lead to headaches and grumpiness, so drink your water!)
- Be nice. The holidays can be stressful for everyone—not just travelers, but also employees, flight crews and workers stuck toiling on Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve. Try to stay positive and friendly. You can even bring a bag of little candy canes and dole them out to stressed-out airline personnel. They'll appreciate the thought.
Also, consult official travel tips from the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, which is important, especially if you're considering flying with homemade food gifts or snow globes or wrapped gifts.
Do you have any holiday travel tips, or any holiday horror stories we can learn from?
Source: Flickr User Pierre LaScott