Are You Ready? Holiday Travel Do’s and Don’ts

Halloween may be over but there’s another scary scene upon us, the holiday travel season! Shriek! Yes, traveling over Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years to visit with family and friends is often a blessing and a curse. Staying on par with the resurgence of travel confidence demonstrated this year; the 2013 holiday travel season is forecasted to be the busiest and most expensive in five years. So, here are a few things you need to know if you are planning to travel for the holidays.

0_219004The Flying Frenzy: The Truth About Airlines at the Holidays

The best time to buy lower fare tickets has long since passed (for holiday travel specifically). In fact, the leading airfare booking sites are already reporting that prices are up significantly over last year’s holiday fares, as much as 17% into popular destinations such as New York City, San Francisco and Orlando. And, airports are expecting record traffic this Thanksgiving.

So, here are my big holiday flying tips:

  1. If you see a flight that you want, don’t wait for a deal, book it! Last minute deals between now and New Years will be just like your Halloween candy…gone. And soon all the seats will be, too.
  2. Travel on actual holiday days is always more affordable than the one or two days before. The most expensive days to fly: the Sundays before Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
  3. Watch your connections! Weather this time of year can wreak havoc for travelers trying to get to grandmother’s house for some pumpkin pie. The best time to avoid weather delays and missed connections is traveling in the morning before flights get backed up or cancelled. Give yourself enough time between connections to avoid missing your flights, especially if you are flying in and out of airports in Chicago, Atlanta, or New York.

Is Your Family Sitting Together?

Airlines are increasingly charging extra to pick a seat when travelers buy their tickets. But you don’t have to pay extra for that. Just make sure you check in online as soon as you can to try to secure seats together. Airlines do and will separate families, even with small children. During this busy time when planes are full, switching seats will be a challenge. Check now so you know what effort you may need to make. You can even try to call the airline to see if there is any “seat shifting” that they may be able to help you with once you’ve booked your ticket. Otherwise, arrive to the gate early and make your request to the Gate Agent, and don’t be afraid to ask another passenger to trade with you so that you can sit with your children. When I have been in this situation, I have purchased a drink for the passenger who was willing to switch with my family member. Just let the flight attendant know and they can tell the helpful traveler of your thankful gesture.

Reserve Your Parking Spot NOW

Reserve your airport parking spot ahead of time. You can count on airport parking lots to be full this year, too. You’d hate to miss your flight because you couldn’t find a place to park. Many companies such as Parking Spot, Wally Park and Park Ride Fly USA take reservations and even offer premium valet services in cities across the US.

Family Driving to Hockey PracticeFor the Holiday Road Warriors

Next week, AAA should give its forecast for the actual number of travelers taking to the road for Thanksgiving. What we already know is that 90% of travelers will drive to their destination over Thanksgiving with the busiest travel day being the day-before Thanksgiving. Want to avoid long lines at the pump or on the roads? Plan ahead. Fill up the tank a day or two ahead, if possible. If you can make it to Aunt Irma’s house in four hours on most days, plan for six or seven. Tack on some extra time so you aren’t late for the festivities. And know alternate routes along the way in case you run into accidents or heavy back-ups. You can save time and your sanity with a little preparation.

Save Big with Off-Airport Car Rentals

Do you have to rent a car from an airport location? No! If you rent a car from an off-airport location you will save significantly over the holidays; as much as 50% savings even on premium rentals. Some off-airport locations offer shuttle service from the airport. I recently did some checking for car rentals in Denver over Christmas and New Years and was able to save family members over $1,000 simply by finding an off-airport car rental location.

Do You Really Need to Take That?

Whether you are traveling for two days or ten, scrutinize the items going into your suitcase. Those traveling for a quick trip may be able to get away with a carry-on only. Even if you check a suitcase, be sure to pack your essentials in a small carry-on, in case of delays (or dare I say it) or your bag gets lost. A change of clothes, power cords, medicines, important numbers, should all be in your carry-on bag.

Most airlines now charge for checked baggage and some even charge for carry-ons. Southwest and JetBlue are the last two major carriers that still offer free checked bags and carry-ons. Southwest even allows a second checked bag free of charge. United, American and Delta all offer free carry-on, so try to keep clothes to a minimum.

Hotels at the Holidays

Hotels in major holiday cities are equally busy and pricey this time year. But, you can save big if you don’t mind staying just outside these cities. For example, you can save big on a trip to NYC if you are willing to stay just 15 minutes away from Manhattan in Brooklyn. Also, keep checking the Hotels.com Deals page for last minute hotel deals in cities across the US. Thanksgiving Hotel Deals are currently featured on the site.

Happy Holidays! And remember: preparation is key! Check-in for your flight online, allow lots of time to get to the airport, to go through security and to board the plane. Pack your snacks, a few good manners AND YOUR PATIENCE. Lines will be long, traffic will be heavy, but this is what holiday folklore is all about!

Safe travels!

 

 

 
 
 

 

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