6 Ways to Survive Holiday Travel | Reader's Digest

6 Ways to Survive Holiday Travel

Travel-Ticker.com offers their best advice for making holiday travel cheaper and easier.

By Barbara Messing from readersdigest.com

Holiday travel can be a headache but with this checklist you’ll be armed and ready so that you can focus on your loved ones, holiday traditions, and making memories.

Plus: 50 Secrets Your Pilot Won’t Tell You

1. Book holiday travel early to get the best prices and fly non-stop.

  • Traveling this holiday season, especially during Christmas and New Year’s, will be more expensive than in previous years because of the general recovery of the airline industry and the fact that both holidays happen to fall over the weekends.
  • Avoid getting stranded during a layover by booking a non-stop flight. If you do have to make a connection, try to avoid airports that experience frequent weather delays when picking your route.
  • Sign up for sale alerts, subscribe to newsletters and keep tabs on Twitter updates from your favorite travel sites and airlines. This will allow you to take advantage of new promotions and sales. By simply following travel experts and providers like @travel_ticker and keeping an eye on popular hashtags like #TravelTuesday, consumers can let the deals do all the work.

2. Travel on off-peak days.

  • For Thanksgiving, avoid traveling on the Wednesday before and the Sunday after as they are two of the most highly trafficked travel days of the year. Airlines identify these days as high demand days and increase prices accordingly, making the best days to travel Thanksgiving Day and the Saturday after.
  • For Christmas, avoid flying on December 26th. It is the only identifiable high demand day at the end of December, because Christmas falls on a Saturday this year.
  • New Year’s Eve falls on a Friday this year, making Sunday, January 2nd a very popular day to travel and one of the most expensive. For better fare pricing, travel on January 1st or the 3rd and avoid the extra cost and airport crowds.

3. Get your money’s worth at hotels.

  • Hotels in big cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York often have great deals during the holidays because business travelers leave rooms empty as they head home for the holidays. This makes for a great opportunity to skip staying with relatives during the holidays and turn your travel into a mini-vacation, where you can treat yourself to an upscale hotel experience without breaking the bank.
  • Ask nicely for any room upgrades at check-in – if you’re not a scrooge you may be rewarded.
  • Kindness begets kindness. Acknowledge that folks in the hotel are working over the holiday and thank them for it. Show your appreciation for good service – either a nice tip or even better, a note to the General Manager.

Plus: 13 Things Your Hotel Desk Clerk Won’t Tell You

4. Pack light and pack smart.

  • Avoid checking bags – carry-on is the absolute best to avoid fees and save time. You can always buy or borrow your toiletries at your destination if you need to.
  • Send holiday gifts ahead of time or buy online and ship them directly. If you have to bring your gifts, do not wrap them until you get to your destination; if a security officer needs to inspect a package, they may have to unwrap your gift.
  • Make sure your laptops and oversized electronics are convenient to get to in your carry-on bag when you go through security.
  • Don’t overpack your bag – you’ll avoid weight limitations, and if it is opened for inspection the screener will be able to easily reseal your bag.

5. Get to the airport faster.

  • Check in for your flight online at home 24 hours or less before your flight departure time and print out your boarding pass so you can go straight to the security line. If you don’t have access to a computer or printer, you can also go to the self check-in kiosks at the airport, which usually have shorter lines.
  • Take a cab or public transportation to the airport so you can avoid back-ups at parking lots and remote shuttle lots.
  • Don’t get to the airport at the last second— give yourself plenty of time as flights are overbooked around the holidays and you could get bumped.
  • Check the wait times ahead of time on your airport’s website or through the wait time calculator.

6. De-stress with a getaway before, during or after the holidays

  • As a general rule, travelers will find the best bargains before December 23rd and after January 15th, but let the deal be the inspiration.
  • Before the holidays is a great time to visit Florida, Mexico and the Caribbean for some of the lowest rates of the year. Some vacation packages to these destinations are as low as $100 per day including airfare.
  • For an unconventional yet memorable holiday experience, there are some great deals to be had. Skip the traditional holiday feast at home and try a holiday getaway.

Plus: 11 Hotels That Offer Free Breakfasts

Barbara Messing is the General Manager of Travel-Ticker.com. You can ask her all of your holiday travel questions at AskBarbara.