There may be no place like home for the holidays, but getting there can sometimes be a challenge — not to mention, extremely stressful. Between endless TSA security lines and hazardous weather conditions, making it out alive is a holiday miracle in and of itself.
To make your life a little easier while traveling during the holidays, we rounded up these top tips to save you time, money, and space. Bon voyage!
Share a ride.
We don’t have to tell you that ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft offer the best of both worlds: Arrive in peace while saving money in the process. To bank even more bucks, opt for the pooling feature, which allows you to carpool with other riders along your route. Just be sure to build in extra travel time with the additional stops.
Schedule your ride.
If you’re like me, you like to savor every minute before waking up for an early morning flight. Squeeze in some more shut-eye by scheduling your ride in advance. “Uber’s Scheduled Rides feature gives you that extra assurance that your Uber will be available when you need it,” says Lexi Levin of Uber. Bonus: You can request your ride 30 days to 30 minutes before you need it. Bonus: Use your American Express card for free Uber rides to the airport using the code AMEXAIRPORT.
Skip checked bags, if you can.
“This will not only save you time when checking in, but it will also save you money as most airlines now charge an additional fee,” says Flavie Lemarchand-Wood, spokesperson for Priceline.com. If you can swing it, splurge on the TSA Pre Check membership. It’s $85 for five years and will help you speed through security.
Pack extra snacks and a refillable water bottle.
Don’t let hangriness get the best of you this holiday season. Load up on protein-filled snacks, such as peanut butter and protein bars, to keep calm and stay full during long lines and flight delays. Plus, you’ll save on expensive airport food and bottled water.
Canceled flight? Act quickly.
“If your flight gets cancelled or severely delayed and you are at the airport, call the airlines reservation number to discuss your options,” says Chris Lopinto, president and co-founder of ExpertFlyer.com. “Do not use the customer service desk at the airport. By the time you get to the desk after standing on line for 30 minutes, your options will have dwindled dramatically, if they exist at all.”
Skip the rental line.
The Avis Now app allows you to skip the counter and go straight to your ride. You can make changes to your reservation in-app, and even flash the headlights and lock the doors from the comfort of your phone.
Wrap your gifts when you land.
“If you plan on carrying presents through security, consider mailing packages beforehand, or bringing easy-to-stow presents like gift cards,” says Calvin Iverson of TravelPirates.com. “TSA agents don’t care how Instagram-ready your gifts are when checking packages for security hazards.”
Bring a portable battery back.
You know there won’t be any outlets when you need one, so think ahead and pack a portable battery back in your purse or carry-on. Better yet, chillax on the Wifi and bring a book or magazine for entertainment while you wait.
If you’re hitting the road during the holidays, make sure your car is stocked for an emergency with blankets, flares, a shovel, salt for icy conditions, and bottled water and snacks. A battery jump starter pack could come in handy as well!
Weigh in early.
“Check your limits on the airline’s website, and weigh before you go with a handy luggage scale. [That way] you don’t get stuck moving things to your carry-on last minute, causing unnecessary stress at the airport,” says Emily Bernard, co-founder and chief brand officer of PlacePass.com. “Or, better yet, get a suitcase like Bluesmart with its own built-in scale.”
Download your airline’s app ahead of time for important notifications pertaining to your flight and digital boarding passes. If you’re driving, check GasBuddy for the cheapest gas near you and Urgent.ly if you find yourself needing roadside assistance. And offline maps apps, such as MAPS.ME, will save your data if you’re traveling overseas.
Have a flexible schedule.
During this time of year, flights are often overbooked, which means you could score a free upgrade or money in exchange for your seat. “If you are flexible on your flight dates, it’s worth asking the check-in agent whether the flight is oversold and if they are searching for volunteers to go out on the next flight,” says Alex Phillips, former flight attendant and founder/editor of The Banter Press.
Choose your security line carefully.
“If you see a large group ahead of you (especially if they’re traveling with kids), go the opposite direction! The holdups here can be terrifying if you’re running behind on time,” says Kari Cruz, a travel and fashion expert. If you’re unsure which line to pick, the odds favor you if you pick the line to your left. Why? Because most of the population is right-handed, the natural instinct is to go right, therefore those lines tend to be more crowded.
If you have time to kill between connections or your flight was delayed, download LoungeBuddy to gain free or one-time fee access to airport lounges and enjoy ALL the Wifi, snacks, and drinks your heart desires.
Don’t get caught with a cold.
The trays on the back of airplane seats are often the germiest places. “Hand sanitizer, Airborne, vitamin C packs and cough drops are must-have travel essentials,” says career expert Heather Monahan. “But, don’t stop there. Aspirin, Visine, and allergy meds should also be included in your Ziploc traveling pharma-pack.”
Place plastic wrap under all bottle lids.
“This will create leak-proof storage for your liquids because — let’s face it — there is nothing worse than opening up your toiletries to discover that everything is wet and half of your product is already gone!” says Amber Fillerup Clark, beauty expert and founder of Barefoot Blonde.