The holiday travel season is upon us and now more than ever, we need to be aware of our behavior and be a part of the solution (not the problem) when traveling this year. Not to sound preachy, but this is GO time people! This is what we practice for. Lots of flights, lots of people, lots of children, lots of luggage, smaller planes, delayed flights, crowded airports, weather delays, and YOU can either be a help or a hindrance. Generally speaking, you need to plan for the worst and be hopeful for the best. The following list is a general guideline for domestic travel within the country of your primary residence. If traveling internationally over the holidays, pay extra attention to passports, ID's and currency. And, don't leave one of your children behind like they did in the movie Home Alone. Here's a little advice to be a model traveler.
At all times, remember why you are traveling. Chances are you are traveling over the busiest travel period to be with family and/or friends. Whatever the reason, remember it. Nobody is FORCING you to travel over the holidays (and if they are, seek some professional help 'cuz that's not healthy).
Confirm Your Itinerary
Car rental, flight, hotel. These are the biggies. A few days before your scheduled travel day, call the companies and make sure your itinerary details are correct. Be particular about the correct spelling of your traveler's first and last names (this is essential for getting through security). All names must match EXACTLY as your ID.
I usually use my passport as my ID on all trips (even within the US). I do this because it is universally accepted form of ID and because TSA screeners can easily check them. No matter where I am in the world, my passport is the best way to identify myself.
Print Out Documents
If you received a confirmation email, print it out and put it in a "travel day" folder that you will be bringing with you. If you didn't get a confirmation email, get a verbal confirmation (over the phone) and write down the record locator number. All details must be included about the particular company. Address of hotel, direct phone number, etc.
This is a careful balance of need vs. want. Remember, some airlines (most actually) will charge you to check luggage. Consider the ramifications of checking your suitcases. Pack light and for function on your trip. No more than two pairs of shoes, (the heaviest you need to wear on your travel day), etc. Weigh your checked luggage at home. All airlines have a weight restriction. Keep your bags as light as possible not just to avoid a fee, but remember, you are going to have to drag it around. A good rule of thumb is to only pack what you can COMFORTABLY carry without assistance.
24 hours before your departure time is a critical part of the travel day timeline that is often overlooked. This day is where you can solve potentially time-crippling issues like getting the car serviced, filling up the tires, filling the gas tank, etc. Also, this is the time to look over your "before I leave the house" checklist. The night before travel day, I place all critical items directly ON my packed suitcase. Wallet, passport, travel folder, etc.
If Flying, Check In Online
Most airlines allow you to check in up to 24 hours in advance of your departure and I highly recommend doing so. This is where you can pick your seats (perhaps get an upgrade) or an exit row (for more leg room) and print out your boarding pass.
I get bored on planes because I usually can't sleep. So I always bring the following: a small snack (protein bar or nuts), breath mints and gum (for both me and sometimes my seat mate), a newspaper or magazine, my iPhone (with a movie on it), and a pad of paper and a pen. After I get through security, I buy a bottle of water.
Weigh your options carefully on how you're going to get to and from the airport. This is not the best time to rely on ANYONE else to drive you to the airport. Either drive yourself and park it in long term (and maybe have a friend come pick it up later in the day) or get a car service. A little piece of mind goes a long way when you hire a professional driver on your travel day.
If you are driving, consider the traffic patterns of both your departure and arrival destinations. Try not to be part of the crowd. If you are flying, arrive AT LEAST 90 minutes prior to your departure time for domestic and 3 hours prior for an international flight.
Going through security is so much easier if you don't pack liquids in your carry-on; avoid them if you can. Shoes go directly on the belt, laptops go in a separate bin (by themselves) and you must take off your coat or bulky sweater. Keep your boarding pass and ID out and available through security until AFTER the metal detector. Slip on shoes are helpful but no bare feet...think of the germs on that floor...gross.
Number One reason for a flight delay? Weather. Mother nature can really screw up the holidays; it is one of the biggest issues for airlines. Stay calm and remember why you are bothering to fly today. Mechanical issues is another reason why a flight can be delayed. Remember, finding a mechanical issue BEFORE the plane takes off is a GOOD THING. Be patient for mechanical delays. And finally, scheduling of arriving crew and airplanes can get a bit tricky so again, be patient and read your newspaper. :-)
Keep your cool and spread the positive smiley love! Ticket agents, flight attendants and your fellow travelers will notice and appreciate your positive attitude.
Have a safe and happy holiday travel season!
I am on a mission to get you traveling more often. This blog is a reflection of my mission. I travel (on average) 30 weeks per year hosting and producing a television series for PBS. In addition, I host a weekly radio show and produce original travel videos for online distribution. I am very fortunate for these opportunities and it is my hope you will join me on my travels!