It's the most grueling time of the year: holiday travel season. Sure, it's good to get together with the family (or get away from the family and head to the beach). But getting anywhere can be an ordeal. You've got to deal with the unpredictable weather, the grumpy crowds, the expense, the hassle, the crying babies, and of course, the many delays. It's enough to make even the cheeriest traveler scream "Bah, humbug!" and just stay in the house until Valentine's Day.
But you have to get up off the couch and out the door if you want to see Grandma and your favorite cousins this Christmas. So fear not - you can do this! Expect the unexpected as you head out the door this holiday season, and be sure to channel your inner Boy Scout: Be prepared. Pack the right things, leave the wrong things behind, have a good attitude and, above all else, do not let the kids get hangry! There's a skill and an art to traveling at this time of year, whether you're going by plane, train or automobile. So open up the overhead storage compartment that is your brain and stow these 15 survival tips for holiday travel.
All your tech is no good to you if you can't use it. Before you leave the house, charge your devices. Make sure you have enough chargers and cords. Take along any portable batteries you've got, and make sure they are juiced up too. Make sure you've got your Netflix/Amazon/Hulu passwords; cartoons won't keep your kid occupied if they aren't logged in on their device.
Follow TSA rules
Even occasional air travelers should know the drill by now. Liquids, gels and aerosols packed in carry-on must follow the 3-1-1 liquids rule: 3.4 ounces or less per container; one quart-size, clear, plastic, zip-close bag (all liquids must fit in the bag); one bag per passenger. Wear shoes that you can get off and on easily. And make sure your kids are compliant too. Keep that TSA line moving!
You might not get a signal on the road, so download what you can before you head out on that car trip. Streaming services won't let you download every show or movie, so make sure you check before you leave.
Ship your gifts
Save yourself some aggravation by having your gifts shipped to your destination. This will make life easier whether you're driving or flying. If you must take presents on the plane, don't wrap them. TSA recommends using gift bags or gift boxes.
Don't get scammed
The first step towards making sure you don't get scammed on vacation is to make sure you have confirmation emails. Watch out for advance charges. Check your credit card statement to make sure that the records match. Google the hotel name and address from the confirmation notice to find out if the property is legit.
Pack some snacks
The only thing worse than letting the kids get hungry is letting them fill up on junk food that will just make them fussier. Take along healthy snacks. The TSA says fruits and vegetables can be transported in either your carry-on or checked bags within the continental United States. But liquid or gel food items larger than 3.4 ounces are not allowed in carry-on bags. Also note: Passengers flying from Hawaii, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands to the U.S. mainland cannot take most fresh fruits and vegetables due to the risk of spreading invasive plant pests.
Take care of your health
Watch what you're eating too. Nothing will wear you down faster than a lousy diet. Hold the fries and get the salad.
Consider traveling on the holiday to save a few bucks and face smaller crowds. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day could be some of the best days for air travelers this holiday, but you risk missing the holiday if your flight is delayed.
Get a flu shot
Here's another way to stay feeling your best: Get a flu shot. The CDC recommends you get a shot at least two weeks before traveling because it takes that long for the vaccine immunity to kick in. And if you're already sick and showing symptoms, don't travel.
Get the app
Here's another way to make technology your friend. Airline apps can get you through the airport faster. Driving apps such as Waze can help you avoid massive headaches on the road.
Pack smart by packing light
Savvy travelers know that packing light is the way to go. It's better to do laundry at Mom's house than lug those heavy bags around the airport.
Get some exercise
After hours stuck in the car or on the plane, you're going to want to get a little exercise. You'll be surprised how much better you'll feel after a few laps around the terminal or the truck stop. And take the kids with you. They need to burn off some of that energy too.
Do your homework
So what will you do once you get to your destination? Have a plan, but don't over-schedule yourself. Know what you're doing each day - to a point. Be sure to build in some time to just relax and do nothing.
Expect the unexpected
The thing is, no matter how much you prepare, you could still hit a snag. The weather may not cooperate, there could be a problem with your flight, or an accident up ahead of you on the road could delay your journey. Prepare yourself for anything to happen, and remember that this is where those snacks and phone chargers could really save you.
Make the best of your trip. As John Lennon said: "Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans." So enjoy the journey as much as the destination, and you'll be sure to turn your trip into a dream vacation.
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