7 Tips for Holiday Travel

Nov 24, 2015

A recent report from AAA estimates there will be 42 million Americans who travel 50 miles or more from home during the Thanksgiving holiday.

It’s that time of year. Tis the season of traffic jams, crowded airports and rampant flight delays. Even the federal workforce’s most seasoned travelers often find themselves stressing over travel logistics during the holidays. If you’ll be catching a flight this week, we empathize your pain. Take a deep breath, and remember these key travel tips to help your weekend go more smoothly.

  1. Play it safe and arrive early: Arrive at the airport earlier than usual. It’s generally advised that you arrive at least one hour before your flight if you are flying domestic, and two hours if you are flying international. Given the recent uptick in terror threats, however, try to get to the airport even earlier. The security lines will likely be even longer and slower than normal, and TSA will handle an estimated 25 million passengers this week with enhanced screenings.
  2. Call the airline as soon as it looks like there may be a cancellation: If there appears to be a serious mechanical problem, call the airline to have it “protect” you on the next flight available. This will cover you in case the mechanical problem causes a cancellation. Just print a new boarding pass, and head onto your final destination.
  3. Go long with the layover: Choose a longer layover rather than a short one. While you may not enjoy spending two hours sitting in an airport, it’s better than running the risk of missing your connecting flight because of a delay.  If you do miss your flight connection, or bad weather causes delays, get in line to speak to a customer service representative. While you wait in line, also call the airline directly. Depending on how jammed the phone lines are, the telephone representative may be able to help more quickly than it takes to get to the front of the line.
  4. Avoid hefty overweight luggage fees: Weigh your luggage at home first, and keep it under 50 pounds to avoid an overweight charge. If your bag is too heavy, try trading out any packed shoes for a lighter pair, as they tend to be the heavier items packed. You can also strategically wear some of your heavier items to the airport to lighten your suitcase.
  5. Double check your bag before they send it on: Make sure the airline’s tag has your name, flight number and final destination, and save the sticker receipt in case your luggage gets lost. Also, consider investing in a sturdy luggage tag that includes your name, address and phone number in case the airline’s tag falls off.
  6. Keep the important items in your carry on: Do not check any items you will need in the immediate future! It could take up to a week for an airline to return a lost bag. Be sure to keep any medications or valuables in your carry-on luggage, and also consider packing a day’s worth of clothing in case your bag is lost  and you need a fresh change of clothes the next day.
  7. Be prepared to have to check your carry on: With crowded flights come packed overhead bins, so be prepared for the possibility you may have to check your carry on luggage. Keep a tote or lightweight bag inside your carry on so you can keep your valuables with you if you have to check your carry on at the last minute.

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