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Everything to Know for Stress-Free Holiday Travel

Tips and tricks from traveling professionals to make your holiday travels "merry and bright."

When it comes to traveling over the holidays, everyone can agree on one thing: They want it to be as stress free as possible. That often isn’t the case, however, with so many people traveling all at once—not to mention extra luggage, inclement weather, delays and all of the extra stress that goes with the holidays anyway.

To help ensure the most stress-free holiday travel, we asked expert travel advisors to weigh in with the tips and tricks they tell their clients.

Parking

Even the most experienced of travelers can be met with unfortunate roadblocks if they’re not used to traveling over the holidays when airports parking becomes packed far beyond its normal capacity.

A normal, early arrival time at the airport turns into a mad dash for the gate in a hurry if one is forced to park miles and miles away from the airport.

“Reserve airport parking in advance,” says Rob Stern of RobPlansYourTrip.com in Raleigh, NC. “[Do so] either at an on-airport lot, an off-airport lot, or by using SpotHero.com, which contracts with some airport hotels to offer non-guests parking and shuttle service.”

If you haven’t reserved parking well in advance, start arranging other options for getting dropped off at the airport—either by family and friends or long-range shuttle services.

Packing

Consider packing less this holiday season.

If the place you’re going is truly “home for the holidays,” there’s a good chance they have laundry. Bringing a few less outfits could mean saving big on baggage fees, especially if one is prone to going over weight limits or packing carry ons that actually need to be checked.

“Don’t over pack your carry on,” said Loulu Lima of Travel Guru Book Here, Give Here based in Austin, TX. “They are being gate checked more often.”

Then again, having your carry on gate checked isn’t the worst fate in the world. If you have a tight connection, having that bag out of your hands could help you make your flight on time.

“If you are ok with checking your carry on,” said Lima, “volunteer to check it at the gate. It’s usually free and they may give you the option to board early.” 

Preparation

Like the U.S. Coast Guard, expert travelers often have the motto of “always prepared.” At the holidays, that preparation is doubly important. Every step of the traveling process is going to include inexperienced travelers, children and extra bodies that the holidays bring.

Everything takes just a few moments longer.

“When traveling with the kids,” said Margo McDonough of Blue Skies Travel Center of Newark, DE, “don’t forget snacks … you can never have enough. Also bring an extra change of clothes for adults and kids alike.”

Throw in the potential for inclement holiday weather, and the possibility for missed connections, delays or cancellations skyrockets. The more you are prepared, the better off you will be.

“Sign up for the airline flight alert e-mails to track delays,” said Stern, “and carry a copy of the Commitments for Controllable Cancellations from Department of Transportation.”

“Keep two days of clothes and necessities in your carry on,” said Lima, “and use AirTags to track your bags.”

 Of course, the best way to be prepared is by starting with a trusted, verified travel advisor.

“Don’t hesitate to reach out to your travel advisor,” said McDonough, “for help with things like flight cancellations.”

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