Wherever you’re heading this holiday season, if you’re traveling by air, expect some heavy traffic. But don’t let the long lines at the airport, overcrowded terminals, and overwhelming stress stand in your way of visiting family this year. I’ve gathered a few tips on how to make your travels a little less expensive and stressful.
1. Peak Travel Dates – Avoid Them
With Christmas and New Years Day falling on Mondays this year, you can expect people to begin their travels on the Saturdays before. Try your best to avoid traveling on these two days. If you have the vacation time from work, book your flight for Friday morning. If you still see high flight prices, try searching for flights with flexible dates. Many airlines have an app that will allow you to search for a flight 3 +/- days from your actual search, which will show you all the cheapest flights around that time. And, don’t be afraid to shop around. If you always fly United, consider looking into airlines such as Spirit or Frontier, which are often much cheaper.
2. Know the Airports and Carefully Plan Your Connections
When you’re booking a flight, you want to be mindful of all the other coordinating parts of air travel, such as parking, rental cars, and hotels. Do your research to find out which airports are going to score you the best deal. Often, a cheaper flight will have a connection. Plan this connection to be a short layover, but not too short where you’ll find yourself sprinting through the terminal. If you can plan a connection to a smaller city, you might find fewer delays and foot traffic in the terminals.
3. Plan Ahead
You can bet on there being lines in the traffic coming into the airport, waiting for the shuttle from your lot, and in the security check-ins. As a rule of thumb, it’s best to arrive at the airport (not the lot you’re parking in but the actual airport) two hours before your flight for domestic travel and three hours for international. However, if you’re traveling during the holidays, you may wish to tack on an extra hour for each to account for all the waiting you’ll be doing. Also, take as many shortcuts as you can. For example, print your boarding pass at home or make sure it’s handy on your smartphone so they can quickly scan it for you. If you’re planning on giving lots of gifts this year, have them shipped directly to your destination so you can cut down on the amount of luggage you’re hauling.
4. Travel Early or Late in the Day
Travel during a time of day when most people would rather be asleep or at home. If you’re flying before the sun comes up, bets are that your flight won’t be delayed. Also, red-eye flights are the least attractive for people because it puts you in an awkward traveling time; however, this may be the best time to fly if you wish to avoid the crowds.