Tips to Avoid Holiday Travel Snafus

It’s that time of year. That time when everyone and their mothers hit the skies heading home to visit loved ones. The crowded flights and airports combined with El Nino and unpredictable weather can be a recipe for disaster. Some of these tips to avoid holiday travel snafus may be no-brainers, but bear repeating. Especially during this time of year.

Arrive Early

This should go without saying given that the day before Thanksgiving (not to mention the Sunday afterwards) is the busiest travel day of the year. But alas someone will think that arriving to the airport one hour before their flight will give them enough time to check bags, get through security and on to their flight. Nope.

But this goes a bit further. If it usually takes you 30 minutes to get to the airport, give yourself 45 minutes to an hour. It’s not just extra time you will need at the airport, it is time physically getting there. Everyone is likely going to be heading to the airport on the same day around the same time, so there is a high likelihood that traffic will be a nightmare. And then you have to deal with parking. Save yourself the stress and just get to the airport early, and start your trip as relaxed as possible.


Handle the Small Stuff Now

Do you have your parking arrangements or transportation to the airport? If not, what are you waiting for? Parking lots will be beginning to fill up and waiting until the last minute can cost you serious extra coins. (Check out my post on cutting down on the ‘extras.’) Remember, everyone is traveling at the same time that you are and there is a little factor called supply and demand to take into consideration. For example, I got my airport parking for Thanksgiving back in September. I just searched the exact same dates and times and it is now $10 more for the weekend, in the exact same lot. Imagine what would happen if you wait until next week or the week after (it may be full).


Be Strategic with Connection Times

Chicago O’Hare is one of the nation’s busiest airports, especially for connections. It is also located in…The Windy City. Having grown up there, I can attest that it indeed snows in Chicago and usually at the most inopportune time. Take that into consideration. Don’t give yourself a 45-minute layover during the busy holidays where weather delays are almost inevitable somewhere in the country. This is an instance when you go for the longer layover, and hope and pray that if you are delayed you will still be able to make it to your connecting flight on time. Remember, even if you aren’t going to a cold-weather destination, your plane may be coming from one, and delays can abound.


Build in an Extra Day (if you can)

Have you got vacation time that you haven’t used yet? This may be a good time to use it to build in an extra day at the end of your trip. If you are coming back on a Sunday after the holiday, maybe think about taking Monday off (or at least making sure it is an option to call off if necessary). That way, if you are delayed or your flight gets cancelled, you are not frantic about missing work on top of the franticness of trying to get home. Or if you are just exhausted from a fun-filled time with family and friends, that will give you a minute to recuperate, unpack, and take a nap. Most offices have minimal activity going on anyway around the holidays, so you may not even be missed. This is especially true for the week between Christmas and the New Year.


Check Out Alternate Routes

Given the above scenarios, I have found it helpful to check out alternate routes before going to the airport just in case there is a weather issue. Once you are at the airport, if a flight is cancelled or delayed so long you will miss your reservation, you and the 300 other people on the plane will all be vying for the same seats and assistance. It helps to know other options so you can call the reservations line and give them alternate route options, which you can do, at the very least, while you wait in line to get to the ticket counter. Who knows, you may already be ticketed by the time you get to the front of the line because you weren’t dealing with a stressed agent who has already tried to find flights for 100 irate passengers in person.


Sound off? What other tricks do you use to avoid holiday travel nightmares?

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I am a lawyer. I am a journalist. I am a writer. I am a photographer. And I love to travel.

20 comments on “Tips to Avoid Holiday Travel Snafus”

  1. These are great travel tips! I’m also from Chicago and fly out of O’hare monthly (I travel a lot) and my biggest tip is arrival early! There are some days where the security line is only 15 minutes but my last trip is was an almost 90 minute wait. Always factor in ‘extra wait time.’

  2. I’m so glad that everyone comes to my house for the holidays and I don’t have to travel. I’ve heard nightmares about holiday travel. When I do travel, I always arrive even earlier than I’m supposed to. Those couple of hours fly by once you arrive at the airport. Great tips!!

  3. Great tips! We haven’t traveled in a long time over the holidays, usually everyone comes to our place. I do know its crazy at airports though and there can be a lot of stress.

  4. These are all great tips to take during this time of year when you are traveling. It is so important to be prepared well before the time to leave or return. Thanks for sharing the tips.

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