The smell of holiday coffee flavors fill the air, children look forward to long days out of school, and the holiday season is just around the corner. Whether visiting your aging parents for a family brunch or taking a road trip together, holiday travels should be planned carefully to avoid stressful delays and unexpected problems. Whatever your holiday travel plans look like, take inspiration from these great travel tips to make sure your trip goes smoothly.
Choosing When to Travel
The first on our list of great travel tips is to plan around the traffic. Unless there’s a specific day when you need to arrive, try not to be on the road on the same weekend that everyone else is.
You can predict traffic using digital maps applications before setting out, although might not help you a week in advance. Instead, find out on what days the roads and airports are most likely to be crowded. The day before Thanksgiving is the busiest travel day of the entire year, with over 37% of travelers choosing to be on the move then. Generally, you would want to be traveling on midweek mornings, rather than on weekends or the days adjacent to weekends.
Finally, it’s important to remember that you should wait at least five hours after drinking to drive, and longer is better. If you’re driving the Ford Focus or recreational vehicle instead of taking public transit, you’ll want to avoid the whiskey bar the night before.
Book Your Transportation Strategically
Besides avoiding the busiest days of the year, there are some additional great travel tips to keep in mind when booking flights or bus rides.
Try to book your flight or transportation as far in advance as possible. This will ensure you get the best deals on tickets, as well as opening up your options for greater customizability. As you look for travel options, check out several websites and compare deals to make sure you spend as little as possible. The more flexible you are on dates and times, the more likely you will be to find a bargain.
That said, it’s a good idea to opt for departure dates on light-travel days. If you can get tickets for early-morning departures it will be even better since early-morning departures are less likely to be delayed — and airports and bus stations are less likely to be crowded on mornings.
When booking multiple flights or transit options end-to-end, make sure you leave plenty of time between them for getting to your next place of departure. During the winter months it’s not uncommon for planes and even vehicles to be delayed due to bad weather, so look for options with connections in warmer climates to avoid delays.
Always Leave Early
Whether you’re traveling by plane or taking the family car, one of our top great travel tips is to have everything ready at least one full day in advance, and always leave early. Even if you don’t have a plane or bus to catch, unexpected delays are more likely to occur than you’d like to think, and those can be a serious pain in the best of circumstances. Pushing off earlier than you need to will make unforeseen obstacles less of a burden, and having everything ready to go out the door well in advance will dramatically ease tension on the day of your departure.
For flights specifically, most airlines recommend arriving at the airport at least 90 minutes before a domestic flight leaves, and a full two hours before an international flight takes off. However, during the holiday season, it’s a good idea to arrive even sooner than this.
To avoid parking problems at the airport or bust station, take a taxi or have a friend drop you off. If you must rent a parking space, reserve one online well before your departure date so you won’t have to stress about finding one quickly when you get there.
Pack Your Bags Carefully
One of the most frustrating travel experiences you can have is realizing that you forgot something important just as you board the plane or reach your destination. To avoid this, research some great travel tips on how to pack properly to make sure you aren’t forgetting anything important.
It’s not hard to find checklists of suggested items to bring based on your personal needs and destination. If you’re staying at family campgrounds you may want lots of blankets, while if you’re planning to spend a few days at a hotel you’ll want to bring towels and swimsuits for the pool. General suggestions like these can be more helpful than you might think.
Make a list of everything you need to bring with you, long before you actually need to do any packing. Try visualizing everything you’ll do on your trip: sitting on the plane, unpacking in a hotel room, hanging out at tourist attractions with family, or whatever you’ll be doing. Try to see everything in your mind that you’ll need to have with you to do these things.
If you’re traveling by air, make sure you’re familiar with your airline’s luggage policy and current TSA rules for carryon bags. The last thing you want is to arrive at the airport and get held up because your checked baggage is too heavy or you’re not allowed to bring something onto the plane. Think carefully to figure out how to get on the plane with everything you have to have without exceeding weight limits. You might want to consider buying certain things at your destination or borrowing from relatives.
If you need to bring gifts for family and friends you’re visiting, order these online and have them shipped to your destination instead of trying to bring them with you. If you cannot have your gifts shipped ahead of time and you have to bring them onto a plane, absolutely do not wrap them before leaving. TSA may choose to unwrap and inspect them if you do.
Plan Fun Travel Activities
Whether you’re traveling with kids or by yourself, it’s good to plan ahead so you won’t be bored on the trip (or stressed out by loud kids).
Bring healthy snacks along and pack plenty of books to read. If you’re driving or flying alone, considering downloading audiobooks or some music to enjoy. If you have young children, research some travel games you can play.
If you’re driving, don’t torture yourself by making the trip one long commute. Look up interesting roadside attractions along your route so you can visit these and stretch your legs. Besides making the trip a lot more fun, planning multiple stops and activities for the trip can keep you alert and engaged, which will make for a safer holiday.
Great Travel Tips for When You’re Bringing Pets Along
First of all, you should strongly consider whether or not bringing your pet along is really a good idea. Unless you plan to be spending a lot of time with your dog, it would probably rather be at home or pet boarding services. Cats are almost always better off left behind.
But if you’ve decided it’s best to bring your pet with you, the following will help you plan for a safe and uneventful trip with your furry friend.
If you’re traveling by car, your cat or dog should be in a carrier that’s familiar to them in the back seat. Carriers should be secured with a seat belt or restraint since the animal could be injured if the carrier is able to bounce around inside the car. Special seatbelts for dogs are commonplace, but they won’t do anything to protect an animal in the event of a crash, while high-quality carriers offer some protection.
In any case, your dog should not be allowed to roam around in the car, since this would be a safety hazard. Cats should never be outside of their carrier while the car is in motion because cats generally aren’t comfortable in cars, and their actions can become unpredictable, posing a threat to everyone’s safety.
Your pets also should not be allowed to stick their heads out the window while driving. Dogs may seem to love it, but it can make them sick from cold air forced into their lungs, and they’re at risk of getting hit by flying debris or other objects.
You may feel tempted to give your pet the front passenger seat if you travel alone, but again, they should be kept in carriers in the back seat. Even inside a heavy-duty carrier, an airbag could harm or kill an animal in the front seat.
Finally, if at all possible you shouldn’t travel by yourself when bringing along a pet. If you have another person with you to help watch them, it will make everything easier, from bathroom breaks to pet care responsibilities. On this note, it’s a very bad idea to ever leave your pet alone in the car, even when it isn’t hot outside.
It’s also possible to take your pet onto a plane, but this should be avoided. Even if you can bring your pet into the flight cabin with you, there are a host of complications involved that can be stressful for both you and your pet. Having your pet travel along with the checked baggage is very risky, as it’s frighteningly common for animals to be injured or killed during loading or the flight. If you must bring your pet onto a plane, research additional great travel tips for specific to that and prepare for every possibility. Talk to the airline directly to make arrangements as early as possible, and make sure you get all your questions answered ahead of time.
Great Travel Tips for Staying Safe on the Go
With more and more personal information being stored online, identity theft and other data security issues are becoming a bigger problem for more people. When you travel, it becomes all too easy to open up yourself too much greater risks than you would face at home, both to your financial security and your personal well-being. Keep in mind the following great travel tips to ensure you stay safe from hackers and identity thieves.
For starters, you should avoid using public WiFi unless you’re using a VPN software service on your device. To play it safe, get a portable router with a SIM data card (also called a personal hotspot device) that you can connect your WiFi-enabled devices too.
If you don’t use a password on your phone and other gadgets already, set up secure passwords on each of them. If possible, set your devices to erase your data after too many failed password attempts. Backup your information to an external hard drive or secure cloud storage service before leaving home. You should also set up tracking on any of your devices that support it, such as Apple’s Find My iPhone service. Ideally, you should be able to use this software to wipe your devices’ data remotely should they get into the wrong hands.
It’s not uncommon for people to talk about their travel plans ahead of time on social media, but this is another common practice you should reconsider. By sharing detailed status updates, publishing your location, and geotagging pictures, you set yourself up to be discovered and stalked by predators. Instead of talking about your trip before or while it takes place, you might want to wait until you get home. Of course, you may feel that this is going overboard. But just know that if you choose to share your plans or location in status updates or geotagged pictures, there’s a slight risk that the wrong person could find out where you are and plan a crime around your plans.
Of all the great travel tips we’ve discussed so far, this may be the most important: you should only bring important files and personal documents that you absolutely must have with you. Ideally, all sensitive information should stay locked up inside your home. If you bring sensitive files with you, such as your passport or social security card, lock these in a hotel safe as soon as you can. You should also keep a careful record of all documents and cards that you have with you, so that if something goes missing you won’t be questioning yourself about whether or not you remembered to bring it in the first place. In addition to keeping track of your credit and debit cards, you should also carefully monitor all transactions and changes to your credit report. You can monitor your credit report using Experian Boost or Credit Karma, and you can keep track of your spending and credit card data with your banks’ and lenders’ mobile apps. If anything unfamiliar shows up on your credit report or transaction history, you’ll want to investigate it.
Finally, be sure and have your mail stopped before you leave. An overflowing mailbox is a sure sign to would-be robbers that your house is empty.
Following these great travel tips can seem like a lot of work now, but remember that you aren’t just doing it to be safe. It’s because it will allow you to have a more relaxed, enjoyable trip. So don’t see it as just a bunch of work, because it actually helps contribute to the fun.