Holiday travel is a pain in the ass. We’ve all been stranded in airport terminals. We’ve all been shoved next to big, mean son of a bitch on a Greyhound bus. We’ve all flown across the country only to fly back again a day or two later. There are many things that could make your holiday travel more difficult. Here are a few ways to make it all a little less stressful.
Airline Due Diligence
Every year, airlines push the boundaries of how they can screw you with new and inventive tricks. Spirit Airlines, the “leading Ultra Low Cost Carrier in the United States, the Caribbean, the Bahamas and Latin America,” is the king of racking up higher billings by abusing customers with additional fees. From their extra charge for selecting your seat, to their increase in bag costs the closer you get to departure, to charging $3 for water, they never cease to amaze. Other airlines are getting in on the game. United just announced it will soon add a fee for overhead baggage. Before you head to the airport, make sure you read the fine print and see what new tricks are up the airlines’ sleeves.
The age-old saying has always been “pack light,” but if you travel enough, you realize that this isn’t always an option. Yes, ideally you don’t want to check a bag, but weigh the alternatives. If you’re going to a cold climate, do you want to go to the mall first thing and buy a parka? Can you really live for a week without your laptop? Will that extra book be the thing that keeps you sane during that connecting flight? Sometimes you have to treat yourself, and that might mean packing a little extra. Weigh the costs and benefits (financial and otherwise) of what you pack and you won’t feel as put out if you have to pay to check your bag or use an overhead compartment.
Avoid Potential Hang-ups
The goal is to get you and your luggage from point A to point B. The simpler you make this, the easier your life will be. One of the easiest things to do is make sure you fly direct. Though I hear the Charlotte airport is nice this time of year, you don’t want to be stuck there for 15 hours. Shipping your perfect Christmas gifts directly to wherever you’re going is one of the best ways to lighten your luggage load instead of suffering the fate of the endless baggage carousel. Though it’s likely too late for this holiday, once you get back, sign up for TSA precheck. There’s no better way to save an hour of your time every time you go to an airport.
Know the Ridesharing Rules
Not every city allows Uber, Lyft, and other ridesharing apps in on those sweet, sweet airport fares. Some airports that do allow pickup may have rules like designated pick-up points or running pick-ups out of Departure areas. Check the policies before you try to get a lift as a stranger in a strange land. It also doesn’t hurt to run the costs before calling your ride. Some cities have cabs or shuttles with fixed airport pricing, which Uber and Lyft often don’t.
Don’t Be Afraid to Airbnb
This might be a bit radical for some families, but if there are cramped quarters as multiple generations shove into the same ancestral home, it’s OK to stay somewhere else. Staying in a hotel or Airbnb isn’t necessarily a faux pas, and may be a welcome gesture if you notice that your folks are running out of fold-out couches to put people on. Sometimes the best gift you can give yourself or your family is a little time apart.
Come a Couple Days Early, Stay a Couple Days Late
Unless you can’t stand being with the fam one minute longer than you have to, it’s not a bad idea to pad your trip with an extra day or two. Many employers will let you work from home in this connected age, and if you have a couple days of extra time off you might as well use them. Traveling on the Dec. 22 (or earlier) or 27 (or later) can decrease your stress and chance of delays significantly—and possibly the cost of a tickets. If your family has to go back to work the day after Christmas, you can just Netflix and chill until it’s time to head home.
The more you travel, the more you learn that the most important thing is travelling on your own terms. This might mean making sure to hit In-N-Out Burger before finally arriving at your parents’ house a few hours late. This might mean springing for a couple drinks at the airport bar, even if your parents might smell whiskey on your breath when you land. This might mean packing a damn yoga mat for your serene self. Hell, this might mean telling your parents that all you want to do on the 23rd is go to see World’s Biggest Piece of Cheese two hours away and you’ll be back in time for dinner.
There are painful family obligations that everyone has to face. That doesn’t mean you can’t treat the rest of your trip like what it is: a vacation. After all, you’re using up time off for this anyway. You might as well make the most of it.