Crowded airports. Crying babies with tired parents making their way through security. Delays. Blizzards. High prices. Ah, the joys of holiday air travel. We’ve all been there (or have vowed never to be there!), but there are ways to make holiday air travel less painful and filled with a holiday spirit. Our family travels during the December holidays frequently and has the following holiday air travel tips to offer:
1. Check luggage if possible.
I can’t believe I’m suggesting this, because in almost all air travel situations, I recommend packing carry-on only. However, during December from approximately December 20 to January 3 (and most especially the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day), airports and planes are the most crowded. I guarantee that airplane cabins will be at capacity for carry-on luggage, which equals lots of stress while you struggle for space amid the masses of rollies and duffels. (And if you’re assigned one of the last boarding groups, your bags are likely to be checked anyway.) Do yourself a favor and stay hands-free during airport transfers and while boarding planes with your family during the holiday season.
2. Schedule longer layovers.
A long layover isn’t much fun but it’s better than missing a flight. When booking air travel during the holiday season plan longer-than-usual layovers to allow for common problems during peak travel season, such as delays due to crowded flights and slow boarding, weather delays, and even delays at other airports that may affect your flight. While you’re waiting for your flight, seek out holiday entertainment in airports; often, kids will find musicians, toy stores to browse, and even Santa.
3. Invest in a portable recharging device.
Don’t join the masses competing for recharging outlets in airport terminals during the most crowded time of year. Invest in a Mophie case for your smart phone to give it extra juice, or a solar-powered recharger. Pack all your electronic gear into one bag to consolidate carry-on items, and make sure you bring all the USB cords and ear buds you’ll need!
4. Leave baby gear at home.
With the exception of a trusty stroller, leave all the baby gear at home! Instead, consider renting items like port-a-cribs and high chairs at your destination city. I recommend Little Traveller for Canadian travel and Baby’s Away in the U.S.
5. Consider a red-eye or direct flight.
Red-eye flights are traditionally less crowded than day time flights, but these flights can take a toll on families. Try taking a red-eye on your home bound flight when it matters less if you arrive tired and cranky. Alternatively, simplify your trip (and eliminate the possibility of multiple delays or cancellations) by booking a direct flight. We don’t have many direct flight options from our hometown airport, so flying direct often means pairing our air travel with a drive to a larger airport first. A hassle? Yes, but during the holiday season, it can be worth the peace of mind. (Check out what makes an airline family-friendly.)
6. Travel before Christmas instead of after.
If at all possible, schedule your holiday travel before December 25th. The week between Christmas and New Year’s is the busiest time during the holiday season (with the exception of Thanksgiving Day in most parts of the US). Plus, if you can be back home or at your destination during this week, you’ll have a more relaxing air travel experience. (Tip: resorts and winter travel destinations often offer deals in early December so traveling early means you’ll avoid peak season prices too.) Need ideas for getting through airport security, packing your bags, or buying treats for the trip? Read more air travel tips.
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