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13 Tips to Get to Your Holiday Destination Faster—Without Getting a Ticket

Everyone is always in a rush around the holidays, but planning ahead can keep you from getting a ticket, or having to pay for an extra ticket.

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holiday travel tipsJaySi/Shutterstock

If you’re driving: Do your research

In mid-November, Google releases an interactive report called “Mapping Thanks­giving.” Based on Google Maps data from the previous year, it breaks down the best and worst times to drive in 25 metro ­areas around the country. Every smart traveler should also memorize these holiday travel tips.

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Mechanic pouring oil in car engine when his colleague using tablet computerDragon Images/Shutterstock

If you’re driving: Get a tune-up

The American Automobile Association estimates that it will provide roadside assistance to about 1.2 million motorists during the 2019 holiday season. To avoid a breakdown, get your fluids, battery, and tires checked before you hit the road.

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interstate 80 signsRex Wholster/Shutterstock

If you’re driving: Stick to two-digit interstates

Roads such as Interstate 80 are most often direct routes through cities, while three-digit interstates tend to circle urban areas, according to the Federal Highway Administration. If you do get a speeding ticket, use these magic words to get out of it.

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In car view of young male African American looking at maps app on his phoneMonkey Business Images/Shutterstock

If you’re driving: Stay the course

The surest way to waste time on a road trip is to get lost. There are plenty of digital maps to help you out, but they aren’t all created equal. According to Travel & ­Leisure, one guy was so determined to find the most accurate app that he spent a year studying three of the most popular: Waze, Apple Maps, and Google Maps. The best: ­Apple Maps.

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cars in traffic jamCanetti/Shutterstock

If you’re driving: Stay out of traffic

That’s where Waze, with its crowdsourced updates, rules the road. Another app, Flush, will get you to the nearest public ­restroom—and tell you if it requires a key. While you’re on the road, make sure to avoid these rude driving habits.

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no hand steering wheelMr. JP/Shutterstock

If you’re driving: Don’t go too slow

Yes, the tortoise often beats the hare in the race, but in states where driving too slowly is illegal, the tortoise also can get pulled over. Most states now prohibit Sunday drivers from camping out in the left—aka the passing—lane. In some states, a ticket for left-lane ­lingering can cost you up to $1,000.

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airport sunrisetigristiara/Shutterstock

If you’re flying: Leave early

“Six and seven a.m. flights are definitely the way to go if you have to travel during peak holiday season,” says Janet ­Semenova, cofounder of ­Boutique Travel Advisors. Flights in that window are only about 8.6 minutes late on average, according to These are the holiday travel tips airlines don’t want you to know.

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passport global entryArne Beruldsen/Shutterstock

If you’re flying: Get Global Entry

Traveling inter­nationally? Global Entry can speed up your return to the United States. The ­government-run program costs $100 for five years and includes TSA Precheck, a similar domestic program that allows people who have been approved to get through security faster. Just bear in mind that you’ll need to be interviewed and pass a background check, and it could take up to 100 days to process your application.

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tips for flying during the holidaysDavid Prado Perucha/Shutterstock

If you’re flying: Download the Mobile Passport app

This app is ­government-approved and replaces the standard declaration form you fill out when you come back into the country and go through customs. Just input your passport information, snap a selfie, provide your travel details, and answer the usual questions about what you’re bringing into the country with you. You’ll receive an encrypted QR code that will then be reviewed by a customs officer and help speed you through airport lines. These are the best and worst airports for holiday travel.

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travel liquids and suitcaseEvan Lorne/Shutterstock

If you’re flying: Skip the liquids

The TSA can make your life miserable over toiletries. A solution, says former New York Times travel writer Jada Yuan, is to leave yours at home and buy what you need when you arrive. Besides, even in small quantities, liquids are heavy. Your arms will thank you for ditching the extra weight.

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close-up of nicely wrapped christmas gift being held by a child with no face visible, christmas tree in the background, christmas time conceptAleksei Potov/Shutterstock

If you’re flying: Ship your presents

This is a great way to avoid luggage headaches. The TSA recommends against (but doesn’t forbid) bringing wrapped presents through security, and if shipping helps you skip the dreaded baggage claim, so much the better. This is also a case where shopping for gifts online comes in handy. “Have them addressed to you and tell your hosts not to open them,” says Julie McCool of McCool Travel. “Then borrow some wrapping paper when you get there.” If you ship the gifts yourself, Consumer ­Reports found that the Postal Service was cheaper than FedEx and UPS for holiday packages. These are the worst days to fly this holiday season.

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Young man talking on phone inside the airportTravnikovStudio/Shutterstock

If you’re flying: Order your food in advance

The smartphone app At Your Gate allows you to order food from airport restaurants that you can pick up or even have delivered to you before you board, says Harriet Baskas, a travel writer and founder of Check the airport’s website in advance to see whether the service is available there.

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Traveler walking and waits train at train station for travel in summer. Travel concept.Pakorn Khantiyaporn/Shutterstock

Bonus tip: Choo-choo!

“Rail is a great way to go if it’s a two- or three-hour trip,” McCool says. “It’s probably going to save you time versus air travel.” Amtrak lets you check cardboard boxes. Just make sure they have handles and are shipshape. Stay ahead of the game and learn the best days to book your holiday flights.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Jen McCaffery
Jen McCaffery is an associate editor for Reader’s Digest. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Prevention, Rhode Island Monthly, and other publications and websites. When she’s not writing or editing, she’s growing veggies or trying to figure out the way home from assorted trails.

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