It is that time of year when fall has arrived and the holidays are coming up fast. Many Americans look forward to the opportunity to relax and spend some quality time with their friends and families. However, because everyone is traveling during this time to visit their loved ones, the holiday season tends to be one of the busiest long-distance travel periods of the year, according to the United States Department of Transportation.
This fact alone makes holiday season travel incredibly stressful for many travelers. Many Americans dread the holiday season because of this, and fixate on potential delays and catastrophes while forgetting about the joys that this wonderful time can bring. Fortunately, there are several measures you can take to alleviate your concerns and free up the energy to focus on the things that matter.
Whether you plan to rent a van for a trip or book a flight for your travels, we have several valuable tips to help along the process. After all, what use is it to go to all the trouble of planning a trip if you cant enjoy yourself and others?
Start Planning Early
If you intend to do some traveling this holiday season, it is a good idea to start planning your trips early. That is, if you actually want to enjoy your travels and vacation time! Since holiday season travel gets so hectic, it is a good idea to have your routes thoroughly planned. This makes it easier for you to deal with surprises and enjoy your vacation with family and friends.
There are several complications that can arise if you wait too long to plan your trip. If you are traveling by plane, train, or bus, keep in mind that seats will fill up quickly as the holidays come closer, leaving you with last minute planning, odd travel times, and high travel rates.
Give yourself plenty of time to map out your travel dates. This way, you have a full pick of time slots so you can give yourself plenty of space for delays and surprises, and you can choose to travel on off-days or at convenient times without having to pick through the remaining tickets. You will also end up spending less money on your tickets, as pricing is more forgiving the longer the travel date is from your purchase date.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has also noted that 91% of long distance travelers are traveling by personal vehicle, such as with their own cars or a rental. You might want to verify early on how many travelers are going to be riding with you, and whether all of your luggage is going to fit. Many savvy travelers opt to rent a van for a trip, which ensures plenty of space for their friends and family, and not to mention all of the luggage and gifts that are coming along.
If you plan to rent, go shopping for a vehicle rental early so you can choose the car model and time frame that best suits your travel plans.
Generally, planning early is just a good practice and habit to have for holiday season travel. Some people might be able to glide through their travels without having to think about anything, but most people that just jump into things end up having to deal with unforeseen events and complications, while the people that actually take the time to plan can relax after theyve done the work. Hiccups and delays are less of a shock when you give yourself plenty of time, and you have the resources to deal with whatever comes your way.
Keep Up With the Latest News and Tech
You never know what might crop up when you are looking to travel. Airport shutdowns and delays, extreme weather events, tightened security, and other factors could significantly alter your travel plans. You wont be able to predict everything, but keeping up to date on your favorite news channels and local news stations will help you keep on top of current events.
We are living in the era of smartphones, which pays major dividends to travelers who want to know everything about their route. There are tons of useful tools and apps that you can make use of to fine-tune your planning on a granular level.
If you are taking a flight, then Flight Status is great for real-time updates on flight statuses, delays, arrival gates, and baggage carousels. Gate Guru is another useful air travel app that helps you keep track of trips, departure data, airport info, itineraries, security wait times, flight delays, gate changes, layover times, rental cars, amenities, and travel stats.
If you are going to rent a van for a trip or drive your own car, it is a great idea to make thorough use of apps like Google Maps, which can provide traffic data, alternative routes, GPS navigation, advanced route planning, finer trip time calculations, and other wonderful features for safely navigating the crowded holiday traffic.
If you really want to get detailed, the SitOrSquat app can help you locate the best bathroom stops on your route, and the GasBuddy app helps you locate gas stations with the best prices.
For general purposes, there are plenty of great weather apps out there such as AccuWeather, which provides detailed weather information and extended forecasts. This way you can prepare for your trip accordingly and pack the right clothing. If you are expecting a blizzard or heavy storms, you can make the proper adjustments to your travel plan.
If You Are Flying, Keep Those Gifts Unwrapped or Send Ahead
It may seem like a good idea to get all of your gift wrapping done ahead of time, so you arent scrambling at the last minute. However, you never know when TSA agents will inspect your packages, which could undo your wrapping work very quickly and delay you at the airport. Plus, having to travel with wrapped gifts is a little risky, as they can tear pretty easily if they are bumped.
If you dont want to risk a delay at security, consider shipping your gifts ahead to your destination, and skip the worry altogether. No need to risk lost gifts in airport baggage handling either. Some people might find it tacky, but gift cards and cash gifts sure come in handy when you are dealing with extended travel.
While we are on the subject, travel as light as you possibly can. If you are only visiting for a day or two, see if you can pack everything in carry-on bags. Of course, longer visits might require checked luggage, but if you are carrying everything with you, there is less chance that complications arise in the baggage handling.
Schedule Your Journey
During holiday season travel, it is generally a good idea to book your flights, train rides, and bus trips on weekdays, as these tend to be lower volume travel days. Weekday travel is also usually cheaper, so youll probably save a little money as part of the deal.
When you do book your flights, remember that early flights are best, as they are more likely to be on time, and you can always pick a later flight if the first one is canceled.
According to Professional Travel, Inc., Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel seasons of the year. If you are flying, try to avoid travel on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and the Sunday and Monday after Thanksgiving, which tend to be heavy travel days. Thanksgiving Day is a light travel day in airports, but if you are driving in a car, this one of the heaviest travel days on the road.
For your road trip, plan on early morning or late night travel, where you will find less traffic. Many rental agencies are open at convenient times, generally speaking, if you need to rent a van for a trip. Of course, you can also secure your vehicle a day ahead of time so you can get it all packed and ready to go.
Allow Time for Delays
Weve already alluded to this consideration, and it is something to always keep in mind, since holiday season travel takes place in the winter when the weather changes quickly in many parts of the country. Rainstorms, blizzards, fog, and other inclement weather can very easily delay your travel time, or even set you back a couple of days if the conditions are too severe.
Dont plan on your trip being so tight that you only have a day to get to your destination before the festivities. The day before Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve are not only bad travel days, they also give you very little wiggle room if you suddenly run into trouble.
When you are actually traveling, give yourself a good hour or so of extra time to cushion your journey, in case heightened security processes, road conditions, bad weather, faulty machinery, or other unforeseen circumstances set you back.
If you do experience a canceled flight, try not to panic. Hopefully, you have given yourself enough time to account for your misfortune. If you got an early flight, you might be able to pick a later flight instead. Also, many airlines will give out vouchers for hotels and food if the wait time gets really bad. Try to enjoy the amenities if this happens! Once you are with your family and friends, you can tell all of your horrible travel stories and laugh about it with everyone after you get in.
Be Kind to Yourself and Fellow Travelers
There are many ways to ease tensions on your journey, and you can reduce stress both for you and others around you by being proactive. Consider packing plenty of healthy snacks for you and your family. Stress and frustration come easy on an empty stomach, and if brain fog and confusion sets in, you might make mistakes that can lead to more serious complications. High protein foods are great for regulating blood sugar, and high fiber foods will keep your stomach in check.
If you get sick on airlines, or you get carsick, consider packing ginger products. There are also plenty of anti-nausea medications on the market, as well as pressure point wrist bands and medicated patches.
If you are sensitive to loud noise, bring a couple of sets of earplugs. Music players and earphones are always a traveler's best friends. If you can afford them, noise-cancelling headphones are unbeatable when youre away from home. If you are sensitive to light, bring an eye mask to help you sleep if you need to.
Make sure you know your fellow travelers habits as well and pack anything that will make the trip a little easier for them. When everyone is calm, it is harder for little setbacks to ruffle everyones feathers.
If you rent a van for a trip, get something comfortable and roomy so your friends and family can enjoy themselves on the road. If you are facing a long road trip, map out several fun stops, and try to take a scenic route away from major traffic to make the drive more pleasant.
Have a Happy Holiday Season
Holiday season travel is generally going to be busy, and a little stressful. If you can accept that and do everything you can to plan your trip and mitigate the worst of it, youll cut down on quite a bit of stress. Thorough research, price-comparison shopping, early scheduling and planning, and other preparations will greatly help you and make your trip that much more enjoyable. After you rent a van for a trip, book your flight, or get your car ready, you can sit back and enjoy the ride after all of your careful preparation.
The holidays are a time for celebration! Your travel experiences dont have to pitch that tradition out the window. Give yourself plenty of time to plan and research, and then remember to breathe when it is all done. Then you can get to the good part of enjoying your holiday company.