How To Survive Holiday Travel

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Holiday travel can beat down even the well-traveled. Learn how to reduce your stress and be prepared for traveling this holiday season.

The weather outside may be frightful, but traveling during the holidays can be an absolute nightmare. The crowds, the costs, the traffic. Who said getting there is half the fun? But there are ways to travel over the holidays without losing your sanity—or your pocketbook.

Travel on the holiday.

If your family can agree to delay the festivities for a few hours, traveling on the actual day of the holiday can save you time and money. While the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel days of the year (the Sunday after being the second busiest), you’ll find the bus terminal, the roads and the airport fairly deserted on the day of.

Traveling the day of the holiday not only will provide you with a less stressful and less time-consuming experience, but it will likely save you money as well. Most major airlines add up to $30 on top of your fare simply for flying during busy travel days.

Be flexible.

If you’re flying, look at airports that are near your destination (like Newark instead of La Guardia); you may be able to secure a less expensive fare. However, be sure to factor in any extra transportation charges to get to your destination—the extra you have to spend in cab fares might obliterate any savings.

If you don’t want to fly on the actual holiday but can be flexible with your dates, considering flying on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday. These are typically the cheapest days of the week. Catch the first flight out in the morning to save even more money.

If your family is completely flexible, considering celebrating a couple weeks before or after the holiday. You’ll likely spend half of what you would if you fly that week.

Make sure you’re covered.

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The holidays are stressful enough. What if you get sick while at your holiday destination? Or get into an accident in your car rental? Find out before you go if your health insurance and auto insurance cover you in such scenarios. Just knowing in advance how to handle such situations can help alleviate extra stress.

Worried that you might have to cancel your trip? Check with your credit card companies to see if they automatically provide any type of travel insurance. Or, you can look into purchasing travel insurance through sites that specialize in trip insurance.

Don’t be surprised by airline fees.

It seems as though airlines are charging for everything these days, from checked luggage to bottled water. Eliminate these stressful surprises by understanding in advance what fees your airline might charge you once you’re at the airport. SmarterTravel has a handy chart that breaks down charges for each airline.

Be prepared at the airport.

Follow the TSA’s guidelines to be prepared when you arrive at the airport. These tips can help you get through the security lines faster and ensure that you leave with everything you came with.

You also need to be ready for the new screening procedures at the airport. The TSA’s Secure Flight program requires airlines to gather full information about passengers, including your full name, birth date and gender. If this information is not received at least 72 hours prior to your flight, you will not be issued a boarding pass.

In addition, you may face new body scanners at various airports across the country. Currently, there are two types of body scanners—one that uses radio waves and one that uses x-rays. If you do not want to go through a body scanner, you can opt for a pat-down instead, which is performed by a TSA agent of your gender.

Celebrate the holidays in Cancun. Or Europe. Or the Caribbean.

If you’re willing to table the turkey and take a trip instead, you can find some great deals over the holidays. With most of the country busy at home, hotels and planes usually have a few spare rooms and seats. (Just be sure not to fly on the busy holiday travel days and to avoid locations that offer seasonal entertainment and shopping, like Paris or London.) Prices are typically lower and your destination may not be as crowded, providing the ultimate stress-free holiday!

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Source: Fodors.com, MSN.com, CNN.com, The Hartford Courant, SmarterTravel.com
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