Ready for the holidays? It's time to make more memories with family and friends – but it happens to be one of the most hectic and busy travel periods, too. But whether you most dread delays or packing, fear not. We've rounded up our editors and experts' best-ever tips from over the years for surviving Thanksgiving and the rest of the holiday season.
Getting Through Security
There are tons of ways to get to your gate more quickly, including: downloading a mobile boarding pass, searching for less central (and therefore often less crowded) security checkpoints, or even upgrading your ticket to access an expedited line. When you finally make it through the screening area, ensure that you get through as smoothly as possible by avoiding problematic clothing, like complicated shoes and tight, synthetic items that are difficult to remove.
When it comes to holiday travel, we’ve learned to expect the unexpected. Consider purchasing travel insurance that can be used in case of delays or emergencies -- which, needless to say, are more of a hassle to manage when airports are busier. (Among other sites, travelinsurance.com has a comparison tool that helps you sift through different prices and benefits, broken down by categories like trip interruption or medical protection or baggage loss, from various providers.) If you're hit with a dreaded delay, check the airline's Twitter handle for explanations, from whether more flights will be added to what tarmac conditions are. More importantly, airlines also provide customer service on Twitter, which comes in handy when everyone else on your flight is trying to get to the gate agent or reach someone on the phone. And if you have no way out of being stuck at the airport for a while? Start shopping for a hotel, before they book up, and save all of your receipts so that you can pursue compensation.
The notion of flying standby is not what it used to be. Years ago, it was a crapshoot to show up to the airport without a ticket and see if you could purchase one at a huge discount. Now, it means that you can make a same-day flight change to a ticket that’s been purchased in advance. If you think you might need some flexibility, it's good to brush up on just how to fly stand-by -- and know the different change fee structures that your airline follows.
Packing & Luggage
Why pay baggage fees -- or wait in line for counter service -- when you can just carry on? You can maximize that precious space by following expert packing tips, like rolling your clothes and stuffing your shoes, and taking along some super-compact products, like a tiny, candy-size toothbrush. You can even bypass TSA regulations by packing non-liquid forms of your favorite toiletries, be it shampoo or cleanser.
If you absolutely have to check your luggage, try one of these tips to ensure that your luggage doesn't get lost, including arriving early so that there's plenty of time to load your bags, or decorating the bags uniquely so that another passenger doesn't accidently grab them.
A Better In-flight Experience
Flying during the holidays is difficult enough as-is; you'll want to make sure you stay healthy while you're at it. For starters, pack healthy snacks with a good mix of protein, fat, and carbs (like KIND bars). To make the long-haul flight more comfortable, make sure you're wearing the right clothing (forget the ill-advised tip of donning your bulkiest shoes), and bring accessories like an inflatable footrest or massage ball to keep those feet happy. Be sure to rest up for the big weekend ahead, too. An eye mask, ear plugs, and maybe even a white noise app are essential for getting more rest in the skies.