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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 fivethirtyeight.com. These are the holiday travel tips airlines don’t want you to know.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 stuckattheairport.com. Check the airport’s website in advance to see whether the service is available there.
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.