America’s Travel Leaders (www.travelleaders.com) are offering veteran and novice travelers alike their tips to “travel better” through the holidays.
Travel agents have experienced higher demand this holiday season, which means it’s likely that planes will be filled to capacity — thus underscoring the top two tips for traveling anytime: Allow for extra time in getting to the airport and pack plenty of patience.
“We not only saw higher demand for holiday travel this year, but the demand came earlier than ever, in part because our agents were advising clients about the reduced overall airline seating capacity.
“Airline mergers over the last few years, coupled with lingering concerns over the economy, means that there are simply fewer seats to be had,” explained Roger E. Block, CTC, president of Travel Leaders Franchise Group.
“With airplanes packed solidly this holiday season, we strongly advise travelers to pack not only common sense this holiday season, but also plenty of patience, which will be a strong virtue. That also means that travelers really need to allow for additional time to do everything from parking the car at the airport to checking in for their flights to passing through security screenings.”
Travel Leaders neatly divides its checklist for consumers into three categories:
“Over the past several years, most airlines have begun charging for checked bags, often including even the first. This can make packing for the holidays particularly challenging,” Block noted. “Winter travel typically calls for thicker clothing, which takes more space to pack, which means more bags, which means more fees. Our advice is to ask yourself, ‘Do I really need this?’ before packing anything into your bags.”
• Make a list of the days you’ll be away and what you’ll do and wear each day.
• Determine which clothes you can wear repeatedly and opt for those you can layer.
• Wear bulkier items —including heavy shoes — on the plane.
• Minimize the number of shoes — bring shoes that can be worn for both casual and dressier occasions.
• Consider shipping items you really need — including gifts — ahead to your destination.
• Always check the Transportation Safety Administration’s (TSA) list of prohibited items for carry-on and/or checked bags, available at www.tsa.gov.
Before Getting to the Airport
“From Thanksgiving through----- New Year’s Day, the holidays are one of the year’s busiest times for travel,” stated Block. “You can’t control the crowds, but you can take steps that will help you move as smoothly as possible through the airport. And, preparation begins at home.”
• Stop mail and newspaper deliveries or have a trusted neighbor collect it for you.
• Make your home look occupied — put lights on timer switches, and be sure to have snow removal lined up in advance.
• Inspect luggage to make sure it’s in good condition for travel, then pack as lightly as possible.
• Distinguish your bag to make sure it will be easy to identify if you’re checking it.
• Leave gifts unwrapped or ship them ahead.
• Follow TSA’s 3-1-1 rules on liquids and gels by getting one transparent 1-quart zip-top bag that can contain each item of no more than 3 ounces.
• Check in online within 24 hours of your departure and print your boarding pass at home (or have it sent to your smartphone). Remember that better seats may open up since some passengers may be upgraded.
• Before leaving home, check your flight’s status to confirm it’s on time.
• Investigate parking options before leaving home —consider using an offsite lot where you can make a reservation in advance.
• Allow for plenty of time to get to the airport — arrive two hours before domestic flights and three hours ahead of international flights.
Once at the Airport
“An airport full of cheery holiday travelers can be a festive scene, but check-in and security lines often get long — very, very long,” noted Block. “If you know your airport well, you may decide that you don’t need that much time — but, take care. Don’t run the risk of arriving too late to park, check in, check your bags, pass through security, and make it to your gate before the plane door closes.”
Other key tips now that you’re at the airport:
• If you haven’t already printed out your boarding pass, use a self-service check-in kiosk at the airport.
• Have any bags that you need to check tagged with your name — or pack lightly enough that you can carry-on your bag with the understanding that you can often gate check it if those bins become full.
• Remember that most airlines limit passengers to one small carry-on bag and just one other carry-on item, such as a tote bag, purse or laptop computer case.
• Approaching security checkpoints, keep your boarding pass and identification handy.
• If you have a quart-size bag of toiletries and/or laptop computer in your carry-on, make sure it’s easy to reach and ready to place in a security tray.
• Put any items in your bag or in the security tray that might set off a metal detector — cell phone, loose change, a belt with a metal buckle, a watch, etc. In consideration of others around you, begin the process of having each of these items out of your bag, if you are placing in a security tray, as you approach security.
• After you’ve cleared by security, be sure to gather all of your belongings before you leave the area.
• If you have time, sit down to enjoy a snack or purchase some food to take on your flight. Remember that most domestic flights now have a very limited selection of snacks on board.
“Finally, we strongly encourage you to call up reserves of patience when you need them. Children traveling by plane for the first time may be overexcited, passengers who aren’t familiar with security procedures may hold up the line, and busy servers may get your sandwich order wrong,” Block cautioned.
“Keep your sense of humor and remember that the reason you’re traveling is to enjoy the holidays. With a little patience, you’ll not only arrive in the right frame of mind for a joyous holiday celebration, but you’ll ‘Travel Better,’ too.”
For more information or to find the Travel Leaders location nearest you, call 888-206-TRIP (8747) or visit www.Travelleaders.com.