Last-Minute Holiday Travel Survival Guide

Read these last-minute tips before you hit the road for Christmas travel. (Photo: Tim Pannell/Corbis)

You bought your tickets, picked up gifts, and mentally prepared yourself for a week with the in-laws…now all you have to do is get there.

While it’s a joyous time of year, Christmas travel can also be incredibly stressful. In fact, AAA predicts that more than 100 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home between Dec. 23 and Jan.3. That means traffic on the roads, lines at the airport, and enough stress to knock out an elephant.

Here are a few survival tips to get you through this year’s holiday travel gauntlet.

Pack light/pack smart

First things first — presents. If you didn’t ship your gifts ahead of time, you might be struggling with how to pack them in your suitcase.

For the record, the TSA does allow wrapped presents in checked and carry-on bags. With that said, if the x-ray picks up something funky, or they find your box to be suspicious, they are allowed to open it. For this reason, it might be easier just to wrap your gifts when you get to your final destination. Do yourself a favor and pack a few gift bags so you don’t have to worry about tracking down wrapping paper once you get to your Christmas location.

Any gifts like wine, baseball bats, or snow globes are only allowed in checked bags. Here are more items that are prohibited in carry-on bags.

And finally, if you don’t have to check a bag….try to avoid it. Not only will you save time checking in, you will also avoid looking for your luggage on the crowded carousel after your flight. It also eliminates the risk that the airline will misplace you bags — leaving you gift-less!

Related: Obama’s DJ Gives Us His Chill Holiday Travel Playlist

Arrive early


There will be lines, and they will be long — come prepared. (Photo: iStock)

If you’re flying, it’s probably a good idea to arrive at the airport 90 minutes to two hours early.

Sure, no one likes sitting around the airport twiddling their thumbs, but in the wake of recent terror attacks, security lines will likely be longer this year. Give yourself plenty of time to get to your gate. After all, if you miss your flight during the busiest time of the year, it will be almost impossible to get rebooked on another flight. Which means you might be spending your Christmas eating a pretzel in the airport cafeteria, and no one wants that.

Keep an eye on the weather

When it comes to Christmas travel this year, we have good news and bad news. The good news is that there are no blizzards in the forecast. And while this means no white Christmas, it also means less travel headaches.

The bad news is that fog, rain, and thunderstorms are expected across the U.S. (especially on the East Coast) in the days leading up to Christmas. For your sanity, download a weather tracking app so you can keep an eye on the weather in your departure and arrival cities.

Myradar is a great app to keep an eye on weather patterns. The sooner you know there is a problem, the sooner you can react.

Related: The Secret Weapon for Beating Holiday Travel Stress

Bring back up power


Don’t forget to pack your own power. (Photo: iStock)

Don’t have a back up battery for your cell phone? Now might be a good time to invest in one.

If you’re waiting around a the airport, listening to the music and scrolling through Instagram, you phone battery will be jeopardized. And you can pretty much bet that the outlets at the airport will be occupied by other power hungry travelers.

Having your own power source gives you leverage. If you encounter flight delays or cancellations, the easiest way to rebook is to get on the phone with an airline representative or book online. In this case, the last thing you want to worry about is a dead phone. So bring your own juice, rebook on the phone, and sneak ahead of all of folks waiting in line to talk to a representative at the counter.

Just breathe

It’s important to remember that we’re all in the same boat. If your flight is canceled or if you hit traffic resembling a brick wall, remember to breathe. The only thing that will make your travel stress worse is ending up in jail because you got mouthy with a flight attendant.

Instead of freaking out, try these stress-relieving exercises to calm your nerves. From chair pulls to wall stretches, these movements will take your mind off of your anxiety, so you can focus on what really matters.

WATCH: 3 Tips to De-Stress Your Holiday Travel