The holiday travel period over the years seems to be one of the busiest times to fly within and outside the United States. Airline seats are over booked, airports are congested and TSA lines for security screening are at full length sometimes even extending way down the hallway. The long Thanksgiving weekend is historically one of the busiest times to fly, as is the holiday season, from mid-December into the new year. Travelers tend to miss flights, lose their luggage or have their luggage not accompany them by the time they reach their final destination.
Whether you are travelling to spend time with your family for Thanksgiving in November or planning to spend the Christmas holidays and New Year with family and friends out of state or internationally, here are some holiday flight tips that could help you in alleviating the stress and cost of making those trips.
NUMBER 10: Catch the First or Second Flight Departing on your day of Travel
As much as you can, when booking your flights ahead of time, strive to book the first flight departing for the day or the next early morning flight. Flights after 3pm your local time might be subject to delays. Besides, if there happens to be bad weather on the day of the flight , the flight cancelations might have a cascading effect on the rest of the flights scheduled to depart for the same day.
Also, who doesn’t want to arrive early, go do shopping or visit some places as soon as you arrive and get on with the rest of your day outside of spending long hours in the airport. In addition, most airlines tend to get their logistics planned and implemented for the first flight on the day before or early in the morning before the flight departs like fueling of the aircraft, cabin crew assembly, food and drink preparations and so on.
NUMBER 9: If you are flying domestically You might want to think twice on flying an airline that belongs to the city you’re flying from
In some cases, you might want to fly a different airline from the airline that is owned by the host airport you are departing from. For example, if you are flying domestically from Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport you might want to fly United or American Airlines because the united or American airlines crew would have come the day before and would want to get their crew out of there as fast as they can especially for first flights of the day. The same applies to flying delta in an airport away from home say DFW, Dallas or JFK airport, New York the delta crew would have come the night before and would like to commence their operations as soon as possible the next day to avoid incurring extra charges on parking, hotels and so on.
NUMBER 8: Avoid flying the evening before Thanksgiving or Christmas or New Year’s Eve
These are one of the worst days to travel. Travelling on the eve of a major US holiday like Thanksgiving or even Christmas can be a recipe for disaster. Everyone wants to travel on the same day. You might end up sleeping at the airport on the day of the holiday due to bad weather or delayed flights. Always strive to fly at least a week before the holiday and if you need to return to get back to work, fly back on the Friday morning after thanksgiving when everyone is still shopping black Friday deals. Same goes for Christmas and new year holidays, returning the next day after the holiday will enable you avoid congestions at the airports and travel delays as many travelers are not willing to return travel on those days.
NUMBER 7: Call the airline 72 hours before your flight or check on their website using your confirmation number to ensure your flight is on schedule
The fact you have made your reservation, paid for your flight and issued a ticket for travel doesn’t guarantee the flight will leave as when stated on the booking confirmation. Most airlines have a customer service number you can call or a page on their website you can enter your reservation number to check the status of the flight’s departure. This can enable you plan on time before leaving for the airport and adjust your schedule should there be a change of itinerary.
NUMBER 6: Ship Wrapped gifts that are boxed to ease for luggage space and inconvenience for check-in or TSA Screening
One of the major stress points in travelling for the holiday is having your luggage space packed right. Having to unpack your bag before check-in to make sure it checks in with the weight capacity you are allowed to carry to the aircraft or having to scan it through TSA for inspection can be very demanding and even cause mental anxiety. Recommendations would be to ship your gifts before departure. You can use amazon prime if you have a prime account or zappos or even use the United States postal service. For international travelers, there are shipping companies that can take a great chunk of your luggage for you for a fee. However, you need to send it way ahead of time since shipping takes longer time to reach the destination of travel.
NUMBER 5: Be Nice to Travel Personnel from the attendant on the counter to the Crew on board
Since the pandemic, you must have heard on the news on passengers assaulting or even fighting cabin and crew on board, this is prohibited by the federal aviation service and is illegal and can attract fines and even jail terms. The airline can also ban you for life from flying their aircraft when this happens. We understand the holiday travel is stressful for everyone but there no excuses to be aggressive. Positive attitude attracts positivity and even open doors. If you have any issue with the airline, you can take it up with any member of the airline management in a diplomatic and courteous manner. There have been cases of free upgrades just by showing positivity to the flight attendant or even window seats assignments when one last spot available is available. The cabin crew are trained to be nice to you and ensure you have a smooth travel. Be nice, flexible and possibly have small talk with them to create positive vibes, this will give you a good mindset during the entire stretch of your journey.
NUMBER 4: Plan your travel ahead -book early and use the weather reports of the connections you’re proposed flight might be having
If you plan on traveling during the holiday season, it’s common knowledge to book flights early—airports are notorious for being packed during peak travel periods. No matter the destination or the type of travel whether domestic or international, booking early is always the recommendation, if possible, at least 6-8 months before travel. That way you can avoid increase in fare price, cancellation of flights due to last minute bookings on availability and avoiding the mental stress associated with it.
For the holidays like thanksgiving and Christmas, the best time is to book before October 31st. After the Halloween celebrations, most people will start then to make their travel arrangements for the holidays whether its thanksgiving or Christmas which will consequently increase prices.
Also booking your ticket in the middle of the week can also help you get better prices rather than on the weekend. Less people are searching for prices at that time especially between Tuesday and Wednesday. However, this does not matter if you book late, cos prices will go up regardless of if you wait to one month of travel or even closer to your travel date without booking or reserving on time
Another way to minimize the risk of delayed flights is to book connecting flights through airports less likely to be impacted by weather delays.
For instance, if I have a choice between connecting through Chicago O’Hare or any other airport, I will select a different connection. On any given day Hartsfield Jackson Airport Atlanta or DFW (Dallas) might have more delays, but on average, Chicago has the most flights impacted by bad weather especially during the holidays when the region is expected to have bad weather.
NUMBER 3: If your flight has a direct flight from your origin to destination of your itinerary take it
If you are looking to save time, a direct flight is the best choice. This might be more expensive, but the advantage is you avoid the risk of cancellations, and no time is lost as you change planes transferring to another flight. Consequently, there might be unexpected delays on your connecting flight while you are waiting at the connecting airport for your airplane arrive.
Alternatively, there are less complications when it comes to direct flights even though connecting flights are normally cheaper than direct or non-stop flights as some passengers are willing to pay more for the convenience of catching a direct flight.
When booking a connecting flight, it is important to factor in the costs you might incur during your connection.
NUMBER 2: As much as you can, pack lightly
Baggage claim hassles can ruin your trip. There is always the risk of having your luggage lost, damaged or delayed. If you are flying domestically, it’s always advised to fly light so you can carry it as hand luggage and stow it in on the top cabin when you board on the aircraft. If you are flying internationally, and you need to check your bag in, weigh your bag with a personal scale at home before departing and ensure it is less than 5kg below the required limit, that will give you extra 5 kg to play with should the scale in the airport have a different calibration. This will also help you avoid having to unpack your stuff at the check in counter which might end up causing you delays. Every airline usually publishes what their luggage weight limit is, standards for most airlines are usually 50 pounds or 23 kg per bag.
Also checking in luggage can limit the number of personal belongings you bring and sometimes you are forced to take some of it out to meet up with airlines weight limit. This also saves you the mental stress and exercise of having to claim your missing luggage with the airline after you’ve landed. Carrying on your luggage gives you control of your belongings from the beginning to the end of your holiday travel.
NUMBER 1: Strive to be at the airport on time and allow for extra time
This is a general cliche awareness tip for everyone. We can only control what we can rather than what we can’t. Traffic on the road cannot be controlled by us! Bad weather, long check in lines at TSA and sometimes early departure by the airline can be beyond our control . Rule of thumb is to be at least 3 hours on time before your departure for international and 2 hours for domestic travel to give time for any uncertainties should they happen. Always better to sit and wait at the airport, relax have some donuts and coffee or even use the airport Wi-Fi to browse on your laptop iPad or phone than having to dash a 1000 meters sprint to catch your flight that is already teeing off the tarmac.