Oh, the holidays. From sparkling lights to cozy pajamas and mugs of cocoa, there’s no doubt winter’s festive season has a magic of its own. But while it may be the most wonderful time of the year, it’s also the busiest. Whether you’re cramming to wrap gifts or cook your signature dish, the to-do list feels never-ending.
Add travel to the mix, and holiday stressors rocket to the next level. (Think: dodging snowstorms, catching flights, booking hotels and scoring taxis.) The good news? We’ve got you covered with our expert holiday travel tips so you can feel grounded, arrive on time and make the most of your PTO.
1. Book Your Travel Plans Now
Need to fly? The earlier you book, the better. Get a jump on the holiday rush and snag your plane tickets as soon as possible. According to Forbes, it’s ideal to book 21 to 60 days out from your arrival date for best fares. That said, you can still likely poach a seat seven to 14 days in advance if last-minute travel is a must.
The same goes for hotels. With the pandemic in the rearview, more people are traveling than ever before, and this holiday season won’t be any different. Book a room now to ensure you have lodgings in your ideal location. (Save it for later, and you risk staying further out and paying excess for cab fares or rental cars to get around.)
2. Flex Your Calendar (And Your Budget)
When you travel for the holidays, don’t forget, most everyone else is, too. That means flights right before and after Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years will be jam packed, often resulting in overbooked planes. Nothing is worse than getting bumped when you have somewhere important to be.
To beat the bustle, flexibility is the name of the game. Avoid popular travel dates and opt to depart earlier or later. Consider taking early morning or red-eye flights. (Hint: exploring a new city for an extra day is a prime way to kill time.) Also, take this year’s flight costs in stride. According to The New York Times, the price of holiday travel is up 50% over the pandemic. Set price alerts for your favorite destinations to eyeball fares, and don’t take it too hard if costs seem wildly higher than usual. (It’s the market right now, not your browser.)
3. Pack Smart, Travel Light
Traveling light means no checked bags and a heckuva lot less headaches. With a small duffle or roll behind, you’ll be in much better shape navigating busy airports than passengers who pack the kitchen sink.
Start by laying packable items out on your bed. Then, load your suitcase with the most important things first. Wear your heaviest clothing, like a bulky scarf or winter jacket onto the plane to free up room in your suitcase, and save space for gifts you’ll want to tote home.
4. Double and Triple Check Covid Restrictions
Though the major shutdown is behind us, and most places have banished mask mandates, some states, organizations and businesses (like concert venues) may have additional Covid protocols, like bringing a vaccination card.
If you’re entering uncharted territory, it’s wise to study up on the newest public health guidelines. AARP has a useful list, by state, so you can research the post-pandemic climate for your destination.
5. Schedule “Me” Time
When you’re dealing with a mashup of family get-togethers and busy travel schedules, it’s vital you prioritize your own wellbeing. (None of us have unlimited bandwidth, after all.)
If you need to de-stress, slip away to your hotel room for a hot bath, kick back with a book, hunker down with a glass of vino, or go for a 20-minute walk to get some fresh air. Even though you’ll be away from home (and your usual wellness routine), the sky’s the limit for simple, accessible ways to relax and recharge. You deserve it.