The holiday season is upon us and it’s full of joy and cheer. Well, most of the time 🙂 But traveling during holidays can be absolutely exhausting. It’s the time of the year when we have to endure overcrowded airports, flight delays, and security lines that stretch all the way to the moon and general commuter chaos.
Flying during the holidays was actually the inspiration for Tim Burton’s “Nightmare Before Christmas” and is the reason that the Grinch hates Christmas so much. It will unlikely be a comfortable trip, however, as with most things, knowledge is vital, and so here are a few things to be aware of.
Gift-wrapping in stores is expensive, although we do all eye up the sales assistant who can perfect those corners and edges and feel a pang of jealousy. The result of this, is that when you get home, you will eagerly find the gift-wrap, the sellotape and the scissors (the latter being the most elusive household item during the season as children go out to murder elves to discover the secret Christmas present storage) with the intention of proving to yourself that you are also capable of beautiful wrapping. This usually takes several attempts, multiple rolls of tape, a plethora of colorful words and a broken heart, but eventually, you will create a passable result.
The gifts are then placed in an open suitcase and the zip is closed. On the other side, you will open your bag, only to discover that the guys in security have ruined all of your hard work and have had the joy of unwrapping all of your gifts. The next stage is to repeat those colorful words and to break something. The moral is don’t wrap your gifts until you’ve landed.
Christmas and New Year is the most expensive time of year to be traveling, so be aware of this from the start. It is doubtful that you will find any last minute deals, so aim to have your flights booked by the end of October to ensure you get the cheapest (perhaps “cheapest” is not the best word) price. To avoid any disruption to your travel, especially for those who will be in winter destinations, aim to have as few connections as possible as this decreases your chances of a delayed or canceled a flight.
Also, aim to use airports in locations with the better weather where there is a lower chance of cancellations or delays due to snow, rain, and polar bears on the runway. The reason you want to avoid these places is that all the flights are likely to be packed out, and so any small delay is immediately augmented, and a minuscule hiccup in your scheduling can cost you hours if not days of your time. Nobody wants to be counting down to the New Year in the airport terminal with an overpriced and underwhelming glass of airport wine. Smaller airports also see less traffic than larger ones and are less likely to be exposed to delays. Flying early and late in the day when people usually sleep should also diminish your spending and chances of delays.
The travel bug
Cold weather means sickness and illness are everywhere. Busy airports, long security lines, and flying tin cans packed to the brim with disease-riddled mammals are excellent places to get your hands on the unique holiday souvenir of the flu. Get plenty of sleep before your flight. Eat a large and healthy meal before your trip. Try to board your plane as late as possible to diminish the time you are in the proximity of sick people.
Window seats mean that you will only one person sat next to you instead of two, which again lowers your chances. If you really want to go for it, take some anti-bacterial wipes with you and give the armrests and space around you a quick wipe down and then set the air conditioner to blow gently across your face. Of course, none of this guarantees that you won’t be zombifying all of your loved ones, but it at least reduces the chances.
The chances are that despite cleaning yourself up to present yourself nicely to your family, by the time you emerge from the other end of security, you will be looking like Santa just returned from a three-month survival trip in The Amazon as your beard will be touching your knees. Americans; for the love of God, get your TSA pre-check! If not, be prepared to strike up a three-hour conversation about the weather with whatever strange person is standing in front of you.
The queue is going to be long, and there are likely to be a lot of people who don’t travel frequently. They might not know that a bottle of water, knife, or a hunting rifle are banned from your hand luggage, which means the queue will move even slower than usual, and perhaps will take up to two hours. Be clued up with what you can and can’t take and be as easy as possible to screen so, when it is finally your turn, you get through as quickly as possible.
Try to check in prior to arriving at the airport. It is most likely a possibility that you can download your boarding pass to your smartphone. Finally, arrive early and on the side of caution; you don’t want to be the one guy who delays the whole flight, having to endure four hours as the entire population of the airplane staring at you with disappointment and hatred.
In conclusion, consider filling up your car with gas the night before and arrive early at the airport. Be patient and easy, and use a little common sense when booking to ensure that you reduce the risk of encountering delays and cancellations. The journey may suck, but you can reduce how much it sucks and have a wonderful season with the people that matter to you. Or you can fly to The Bahamas and drink cocktails on the beach while the people you love to huddle around a fire in a survival situation, depending upon your priorities.