November 29, 2016
By Marla Cimini | CNBNewsnet
As an avid traveler, I have found that when it comes to holiday travel its best to be prepared. In fact, the key to navigating airports and flights during the busiest time of the year is to plan ahead and have an idea of what to expect during your journey. Although it may be impossible to totally avoid crowds, delays, traffic and those seemingly endless security lines, travel is important to many families over the holidays. Here is a quick list of holiday travel tips:
- Mail your holiday gifts ahead to your destination. Purchasing online is a wonderful option because you successfully avoid airline extra baggage fees. Even better, you can watch others squeeze their presents into the overhead bin, where they will most certainly be misshapen along the way. And if you must bring a present or two, please don’t wrap them -- to prevent unwanted issues in the security line.
- Check in early (and double-check) your seat number before you arrive at the airport. Ask any questions upon checking in and don’t wait to try and resolve a problem at the gate. And be aware that most airlines charge additional fees for prime, exit row and premium seating, but you may not be charged at the airport if there is space available (and if you ask nicely). It’s something to consider on a crowded holiday flight.
- Ask questions: Once you arrive at the gate, ask the agent before boarding if there are any open seats on the plane. You never know…perhaps you can score a seat with an empty one next to it….this would be an instant space upgrade!
- Knowledge is power: Be sure to read through your credit card benefits. Many cards offer lounge partnerships or sometimes even trip interruption coverage. It always pays to read the fine print!
- Hungry? Strategically plan your own meals, especially if you are on a longer domestic flight. Most passengers learn the hard way that airlines have very limited food choices, and some offer nothing at all. Pre-packing a (non-messy) sandwich or a few (easy to eat) snacks can make the trip a little less painful.
- Smart money: If traveling overseas, ask to be charged the local currency on your credit card. When you agree to be charged in U.S. Dollars, you are getting a weaker exchange rate. Go with local currency and be sure you have a credit card that waives foreign transaction fees.
- Everyone says it; no one does it…Packing featherweight light can be your ticket to liberation. By limiting yourself to one carry-on bag, you don’t have to pay extra baggage fees, you avoid waiting at the luggage carousel, and you get to your final destination faster. In some cases, if your flight gets delayed or changed, you are not restricted by the luggage you already checked. Besides, if you happen to be staying with family, you can always borrow your sibling’s sweater, or mom and dad’s toiletries.
- Charge up! It can often be somewhat of a scavenger hunt to find an electrical source at a jammed-packed airport. Investing in a portable charger or an extra battery for your laptop or device will give you hours of power. For those who are organized, we recommend downloading the seatguru.com app to reveal which seats have electrical outlets onboard.
- Kid friendly: For families traveling with young children, it’s important to bring along your own entertainment. Your carry-on bag should have iPads with downloaded movies, as well as coloring books and other activities. Also, know that all airlines are not created equal and many do not have TVs at each seat in economy. Most airlines, however, have family services, such as early boarding assistance and stroller gate check, and some go way above and beyond. For example, Lufthansa has “Family Check-in Areas” in some airports with special counters for young travelers; Etihad Airways’ Flying Nannies are on board long-haul flights, providing complimentary services in all cabins. In the US, Virgin America offers other amenities to make travel a little smoother for families, such as changing tables located in all onboard restrooms.
- Follow Santa’s lead: Make a list and check it twice. Be organized and plan in advance. Keep your passport and travel documents in a safe place; and have car rental and hotel confirmation numbers handy. It can’t hurt to have the name and number of a shuttle or local taxi service at the ready…you never know when your relatives just can’t pick you up at the airport after all. It happens!