It's that time of year again, when we hear how grim the upcoming holiday travel season will be. Yes, planes, trains and roads will be crowded, especially now that the economy is perking up. And there's always the chance that snowstorms will gum up the works. But your holiday travel fate is partly in your own hands. Here are 10 tips — some new, some time-tested — for headache-free traveling during this busy season.
1. Don't Travel on Peak Days
There's no getting around it. Peak travel days are the worst! You've heard it before, but it remains true that traveling the day before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after — whether by air, rail or road — greatly increases your chance of travel woes. Consider adjusting your dates by even a day. This year, the Christmas and New Year's crush should be more spread out because the holidays fall on Wednesdays.
2. Leave Lots of Extra Time
Depart from home far earlier in the day than you would at any other time of year, whether you're starting a road trip or heading to an airport or bus or railway station. Wouldn't you rather not be panicked if you run into traffic congestion, crowded public transit or long security lines? Relax and read or listen to music while you wait for your plane or train; take a restful pit stop if you're driving.
3. Rethink the Airport Experience
An airport is no longer just a transit hub to be rushed through. Many terminals are amenity-filled malls, some with terrific art exhibitions, shops, restaurants and even spas and yoga rooms. Arriving three hours before a flight is a lot more pleasant when you know you can browse, savor a glass of wine, exercise or get a massage.
4. Reserve Airport Parking
Airport parking often fills up during the holidays. But at many lots — especially private ones a short shuttle ride from the terminal — you can prebook, sparing yourself a mad scramble to stash the car before your flight takes off.
5. Avoid Airline Ticket Counters
There is no need to wait in line if you print out boarding passes at home, pull them up on your smartphone or get them at an airport kiosk. If you have an e-ticket, carry a printout of your itinerary. And if you're checking bags, use the skycaps at curbside (remember to tip them generously).
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