The day before Thanksgiving is the outbound “avoid” day as a thumb rule. Traveling on Thanksgiving Day is often more affordable. Try and fly home on any day other than Sunday, you’ll likely pay less (Mondays-Wednesdays are usually the cheapest days to fly.) Christmas and New Year’s, the peak is different each year as it depends on the day the holiday falls. Take the option that will allow you to maximize long weekends without taking too many days off work. Try using search engines that will allow you to input flexible travel dates; these will show you the best deals for those dates.
Know Your Airports
Using alternate airports during holiday travel is a must. You can usually find deals on flights, rental cars, parking, and hotels, which will save time with less traffic—saving both time and money. Smaller airports see fewer flights and typically, fewer delays—not a minor consideration during the busy holiday travel season.
Plan Your Connections Carefully
When booking your flights, check your search carefully for sufficient layover time. This will allow you to build your flight with time for flight delays and weather woes, particularly, important during the winter months. Peak travel times often bring peak travel delays, and your connection is more likely jeopardized. Avoiding tight connections will save you time from running through the terminal and missing your flight.
I cannot stress that everyone is traveling and you will face longer lines in TSA, more traffic on the highway to and from the airport, full parking lots, and full shuttles. It is important to factor this into your plans, leaving early will decrease the stress level of the possibility of missing your flight or the family photo because you’re stuck in traffic or still at the airport waiting for a shuttle.
Knowing what you can and cannot take on your carry-on bag is a headache for travelers. You can pack liquids and gels that are in 3.4oz or smaller containers, packed within a single, quart-size, zip-top, translucent plastic bag. You cannot have drinking liquids through TSA, but after security, you can purchase coffee, water, or sodas to carry on the flight. If your containers are larger than the 3.4oz it must be packed in your checked bag—note: most airlines are now charging for checked bags. Check your airline for baggage prices and sizes—some airlines also charge for carry-ons. It’s best to check an airline’s baggage policy before your purchase your ticket so you’re not shocked with a $40-50 baggage fee.
Take Advantage of Shortcuts and Technology
Self-service developments in online travel can be a huge help with saving time during peak travel times. Printing your boarding pass at home or pulling it up on your smartphone saves time and stress. If you are bringing gifts—try shopping online and have them shipped directly to your destination. This will cut down luggage and the risk of getting lost or damaged during the flight.
Travel Early or Late in the Day
Airports are least congested at times when normal people are sleeping. Delays are far less likely for morning flights and airports usually clear as the afternoon and evening peak passes. Note: early morning flights might have less staff. Although your flight is on time, you may be delayed in line to check your bag and getting a boarding pass may take longer in TSA, so still plan your time wisely.
Keep It Together
Don’t lose your temper, even if things are not going so well or just plain wrong. Airline employees have considerable power over your well-being and getting you to your destination. Unfortunately, some enjoy wielding it against you, and few respond well to anger. Just take a breath and a step back from the situation and keep your cool and oblige. Nothing worse than missing Christmas with your family because you’re in holding with Airport Police for losing your temper. Trust me, it happens more than you could imagine. The holidays are a stressful time for everyone, so just keep it together.