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The 2015 holiday season is expected to see its highest amount of travelers since 2007. 46.9 million Americans are expected to travel at least 50 miles away from home during the holidays. Navigating your way through the crowds both on the road and in the air can be a major challenge so take a look at our following traveling tips. Here are 10 Travel Blunders to Avoid this holiday season.
1. Air Travel – Don’t fly late in the day
While air travel most likely won’t be easy during the busy holiday season, you can take precautions to better your chances for hassle-free flights. Do your best to avoid last minute flights. Find an airline that offers an early flight. If possible, take the first flight out, or at least a morning flight to avoid weather delays that occur more often later in the day due to winter storms. When weather affects flights, it creates a ripple effect that turns into a mess of rescheduled flights. If you take the first flight, your plane is waiting at the airport all night and is less likely to be delayed or cancelled.
2. Air Travel – Avoid connecting flights
A flight with a connection may provide cheaper tickets, but it could also become a nightmare, especially during the holidays. Discount travel such as the cheapest flight might appear beneficial, however, you’ll have a higher risk of cancellations, delays or missed connections due to delays in your departure city. Book direct flights when possible, unless the savings are substantial enough to truly make a difference. If not, it’s not worth dealing with the crowds and potential issues of another airport.
3. Airport Travel – Don’t cut it close at the airport
In case you didn’t pick up on this, airports are going to be busier during the holiday season. Allow plenty of time to check bags, go through security and make it to your gate in time for boarding. Check in to your flight online and print your boarding pass ahead of time when possible to save time and avoid the line at the airport ticket counter. Remember that novice travelers will be filling airports during the holidays, which means delays at security. Overall, it’s smart to factor in an additional hour or two at the airport during the busy holidays.
4. Packing – Ditch wrapped gifts
TSA agents often unwrap wrapped gifts if they need to see what is inside. This can add time onto your security process before your flight. Plus, you’ll have to re-wrap the gifts once you arrive at your destination. Avoid the hassle by shipping your gifts before you travel or wait to wrap them until you arrive.
5. Travel Safety – Don’t wing it with traffic
Using travel and traffic apps will help improve your entire experience. Read more for possible travel apps to look into this holiday. Traffic apps such as Google Maps or Waze will be beneficial tools to map out the quickest route to your destination. If you can avoid it, don’t drive during peak traffic hours, like rush hour. If you can handle it, you’ll likely encounter the least amount of traffic if you drive through the night which will make your holiday travel much less stressful.
6. Accommodations – Don’t assume all hotels are overpriced
A lot of hotels jack up their prices during the holidays, but not all hotels. In fact, hotels in certain big cities, especially those that usually host business travelers, are very reasonable. You may be able to find a hotel room at a nice business hotel for the same rate as a motel. Do your research to find cheaper hotel rates before booking.
7. Accommodations – Don’t be careless with hotel search engines
Not all travel search engines are created equal. A study at Frommers.com found that hotel search engines that search solely for travel information, rather than trying to sell you the room, find better deals. Hotelscombined.com proved to be the best search engine in the study because it pulls from hotel websites and discount sites to find the best holiday season deals available.
8. Accommodations – Don’t dismiss alternative accommodations
Keep in mind other housing options while planning your holiday vacation. Just like cheap airfare, cheap hotels may not be the best travel idea. Check out sites like Airbnb, Wimdu, Homeaway and VRBO as an alternative to a hotel. They usually have a wide variety for both type of accommodation and price. You may get a far better deal by renting a house or a room in someone else’s house than you will renting a hotel room this time of year.
9. Travel Planning – Don’t wait until the last minute to book travel
Due to the large amount of people who travel during the holiday season, flights are usually full making last minute tickets expensive and limited. The earlier you’re able to book, the better. Book at least 51 days in advance for the best deal on domestic travel.
10. Enjoying Your Holiday – Don’t feel guilty about taking a break from family
One in four Americans admit that the holiday season is the most stressful time of the year. Between traveling and reuniting with family, it’s understandable. Avoid feeling overwhelmed by taking a break whenever necessary. Don’t feel guilty if you want to talk a walk or go see some friends. Be happy that you’re able to see your family at all, and remember to enjoy yourself.
Pauline Frommer, Author, Pauline Frommer’s Travel Guides | December 15, 2015