The 2014 holiday season is upon us with Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year celebrations just days away. With the holidays comes a lot of air travel for all of us to reunite with family, friends and loved ones. We all hope for smooth sailing, but with a few tips and precautions, you can rest assured you have done everything in your power to make sure your holiday air travel goes smoothly.
We have all heard the saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and this statement rings especially true when planning your flight during the holiday seasons. Here are some steps to take before you ever leave for the airport.
1. When booking your flight, do yourself a favor and spend a little more to book a direct flight to your destination if possible. Avoiding connecting flights reduces the chances of something going wrong due to weather or heavy air traffic delays.
2. If you are unable to obtain a direct flight the next best thing to do is to avoid airports that are notorious for flight delays due to storms. Denver, Chicago O’Hare and New York airports are all commonly plagued with winter storms during the holidays.
3. Create a Plan B. Looking ahead of time for alternative flights in case your plane is delayed or cancelled allows you to suggest the alternatives to booking agents that may be a little frazzled in the heat of things.
4. Add the airline reservation numbers to your cell phone. In addition to that it is a good idea to have the numbers to a frequent flier representative as well if you are a member. These booking agents are often much more creative in finding solutions to flight delays. Also include the numbers to any third party websites you may have booked through like Travelocity or Expedia. You may even want to have the reservation numbers of airport hotels handy in case you need to book a room due to a cancellation. Hotel rooms are often first-come-first-serve and will often sell out during holiday mishaps.
5. Set up a flight alert for yourself and anyone at your destination responsible for greeting you at your arrival. Most airlines offer this service and will notify everyone on the list via text or email should there be any delays or cancellations. Most airlines will also notify everyone to let them know that the flights are on schedule as well.
6. Pack as light as possible. Do yourself another favor and really try to eliminate any items that are not absolutely necessary. The best way to avoid any issues with delays or lost luggage is not to check a bag at all. You may want to consider shipping gifts and possibly personal items to your destination 2-3 weeks prior to departing. If you do bring gifts with you, be sure not to wrap them before the flight. With security issues these days the TSA may need to unwrap them in order to clear them for flight. Ship your gifts or wrap them when you get there.
So now your trip is planned, you are packed and ready to go. You may want to check in online rather than stand in line at the airport. Most airlines allow passengers to check in 24 hours prior to take-off. The last travelers to check in are usually the first to get bumped on an overbooked flight.
If you are going to be parking at the airport it is probably a good idea to reserve a parking space as well. There are websites like AirportParkingReservations.com that allow you to find and reserve the closest and safest parking spots for your vehicle. Once you are parked, be sure not to leave any valuables in plain sight for criminals to see as an easy smash and grab. Most airport parking terminals are well guarded, but the bad guys are still out there.
Before you leave the house be sure that you have secured your house by locking all the doors and windows, setting your alarms and setting light timers to make you house look lived in during the holidays. You should also ask a trustworthy neighbor to collect your mail or have the post office put a hold on it while you are away.
Once you are ready to get to the airport it is advisable to arrive at least 2 hours in advance during the holiday seasons… 3 hours in advance if you are flying internationally. This is the time to put on your patient hat, keep a positive attitude and hope for the best. By now you have planned for all possibilities if you followed our preparation steps and will be prepared if and when a delay or cancellation does occur.