Flight delays, crowds, traffic — holiday travel can be chaotic, especially in this era of returning to travel following the pandemic. While there's no way to guarantee a totally smooth trip (and unfortunately we can't yet teleport ourselves), you'll still be happy to know that there are ways to better deal with some of the most common travel snafus. Read on to learn what to do to help simplify your journey. With these tips, you'll be better equipped to get back to your family and friends, and spend valuable time wherever you may celebrate. After all, isn't that what the holidays are all about?
To Secure Your Luggage: Opt for GPS
With one in five flights per day arriving behind schedule, more and more bags are getting lost. To help secure your luggage, consider attaching a tracking device like LandAirSea GPS Tracker, Tile Pro Bluetooth Tracker, or Apple AirTag, suggests travel blogger Kristin Lee (GlobalTravelEscapades.com). The tracker sends a signal to your cellphone and pings your bag’s location. “You’ll be able to show airport staff where your bags are in order to expedite retrieval.”
Also smart: Snap a photo of your bag’s contents. This makes it easy to describe them on lost bag forms. And in the rare case the airline can’t locate your luggage, the photos will help you get reimbursed for lost items.
To Avoid a Late Arrival: Know Your Rights
Owing to labor shortages, more flights are getting canceled, so you want a plan B. “The airline will offer an alternative flight, which is often the easiest option — unless your flight is time-sensitive,” says Mercedes Zach, a travel expert who works with ASAPTickets.com. If the carrier is at fault due to staffing or mechanical issues, it’s your right to request another flight, including those with other airlines. You can also ask for a refund, then buy the new ticket yourself. A great place to search for flights last-minute? Google Flights or ExpertFlyer.com.
Also smart: Security lines have reached record-breaking lengths, says Jeremy Scott Foster of TravelFreak.com, who urges arriving two hours prior to domestic flights and two and a half to three hours early for international travel.
To Overcome Bad Weather: Tap Waivers
If storms are in the forecast, most airlines will offer waivers for a set period of time. That means travelers with impacted plans can change flights without incurring a change fee and lock in the original price of the tickets even if the new tickets cost more. “If an airline is offering a waiver, jump on it, because it means there is almost definitely going to be a delay,” says Zach. “The faster you act, the more options you’ll have.” Just download the airline’s app and set it to give you notifications — if a waiver goes out, you’ll be alerted instantly.
Also smart: In case of travel disruptions, you’ll often receive compensation faster if you book insurance through your airline, rather than a third party.
Driving to your destination?
If you drive to your destination, you won't have to deal with airline crowds and luggage check-ins (phew!) but you will likely experience traffic and other potential issues. Here are some of our best tips for making your holiday drive less stressful.
To Avoid Traffic: Aim To Leave at This Time
If you’re planning to hit the road the day before the holiday, try to leave either early enough to arrive at your destination before 1 p.m., or leave after 7 p.m., when research shows roads are less congested.
To Save Money: Try a One-Way Rental
Car rental companies spend a lot of money transferring cars from various locations to ensure all their lots have inventory. Check TransferCarUS.com to see if your rental place needs cars moved from your location to your destination — they’ll typically rent you the car at a steep discount to drive it there.
To Park With Ease: Prebook a Spot
Sites like Way.com and SpotHero.com help you navigate parking in the city you’re planning to visit — you can even pre-reserve a space in a garage and ensure a covered spot in case of snow. Bonus: You can save on the cost to park by booking in advance.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.