Captain's Log
Home For The Holidays: 10 Essential Travel Tips For Keeping Your Sanity

Home For The Holidays: 10 Essential Travel Tips For Keeping Your Sanity

by Alanna Smith
Content Quality Editor

The holidays are here and that means holiday travel is here too. The good news is that Thanksgiving travel was smoother than expected this year, due in part to a massive hiring binge by the TSA, which may translate to slightly shorter security lines over Christmas.

But even the most experienced travelers can face some problems during holiday journeys — that's why we've written this list! So let the TravelPirates help you avoid a Home Alone-style crisis this holiday season.

1. To Wrap Or Not To Wrap?
If you plan on carrying presents through security, you should probably leave the wrapping paper at home (or save it for your final destination).

TSA agents don't care how Instagram-ready your gifts are when checking packages for security hazards. Consider mailing packages beforehand, or bringing easy-to-stow presents like gift cards.

2. Can't Stop, Won't Stop
Try to avoid flights with layovers, if possible. There's nothing worse than being delayed in a city hundreds of miles from friends and family.

Nonstop flights may sometimes cost more, but the benefits to your sanity are priceless.

3. Delay The Inevitable
Remember, winter storms on one side of the country can certainly affect flights on the other side. Be prepared for delays.

Here are some good things to pack to stave off boredom and frustration:

  • Reusable Water Bottle: Refill it at water fountains to avoid dehydration and save money.
  • Portable Battery Packs: Everyone else will be crowding the outlets.
  • Change Of Clothes: A quick costume change can do wonders to freshen your mood.
  • Snacks: Airport food is pricey, so bring a few bags of your favorite foods.
  • Non-Internet Entertainment: WiFi in airports can be spotty or expensive, so pack a book or download some movies.

4. Check it Out
Make an effort to avoid checking a bag if you can. Most airlines charge for checked baggage now, so you can save a lot of money by having your friends or family downsize on luggage.

Lost or delayed luggage is a sad reality of travel (especially during the holiday season), so make sure that you keep a change of clothes, a toothbrush, a charger and any essential medicine in your carry-on.

5. Fly, Fly Like The Wind
Running late? Had to turn around to turn off the gas?

Here are some tips for getting through the airport faster so you don't miss your flight:

  • If you have bags you need to check, consider using curbside check-in to avoid waiting at the airline counter.
  • Print out your boarding pass beforehand, or have it easily accessible on your phone.
  • Look into security pre-check programs, like CLEAR.
  • Wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off while going through security.

Never flown before? If you can survive flying in the holiday season, you'll be set for the rest of your life. For more information, we highly suggest checking out our our list of tips and tricks for first-time flyers!

6. You Know What Ruins Holidays?
The flu. 'Tis the season for runny noses, coughing fits and high fevers. Do yourself (and your fellow passengers) a favor and get a flu shot before your trip. Remember, you can still carry the flu virus without showing symptoms.

There's nothing worse than sniffling through the holidays! Be meticulous about washing your hands and cough/sneeze into your elbow.

7. Beat The Early Bird
So, you're planning to drive to your holiday destination? Not a problem. You're planning to leave straight from work the evening before Christmas Eve? Yikes! It'll be you and several million other Americans on the roads.

When it comes to holiday travel, earlier is always better. Starting around 6 a.m. is the best way to ensure you'll miss most traffic. If you can't do early (and your trip isn't super long), leaving around 9 pm may help alleviate some traffic woes.

8. The Road Less Traveled
Maps are your best friend. And while we love paper maps, we recommend bringing along the Google variety too. Most GPS apps are updated in real-time, keeping you aware of any accidents, construction, or slowdowns on your route.

And as we've said before, when all else fails, most states have radio stations dedicated to traffic. Familiarize yourself with shortcuts and alternate routes (especially around big cities).

9. Be Prepared!
This is as much a winter travel tip as a holiday one: make sure your car is stocked for an emergency. Winter weather can be unpredictable and it's important to keep safety first before embarking on a long car journey.

If you get stranded (or if you're stuck in traffic 60 miles from the nearest rest stop), you'll want to have these items on hand:

  • Blankets: Running your heat will burn precious gas if you're stuck, so keep blankets close by.
  • Flares: Let people know where you are.
  • A Shovel: In case you need to dig yourself into or out of a parking space.
  • A Headlamp: For any car troubles where you need both hands.
  • Gravel/Cat Litter: For traction in icy conditions.
  • Water and snacks: To stave off your hunger and thirst.

Let friends or family know what routes you plan on taking if you need to drive in adverse conditions. Stay alert, aware and watch out for black ice and impaired drivers.

10. Reason For The Season
Traveling during the holidays can be stressful, but it's important to remember why you're doing it. Whether you're driving to family in Minnesota, or flying to the Caribbean with your honey, know that your fellow travelers are all on similar journeys. Have patience, share smiles and embrace the spirit of the season.

What do you think?