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TPG Tips For Surviving Holiday Travel

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Traveling this year around the holidays? You may need a few tips to keep you sane until you manage to get where you are going and finally start to enjoy yourself. Read on as TPG International Correspondent Lori Zaino offers some guidance on surviving dreaded winter holiday travel.

With the scent of fresh pine and baked goods wafting through the air, lights twinkling in the trees, and crisp, white snow starting to fall, it’s the most wonderful time of the year again…right up until you have to fly somewhere.

Flight delays, crowds and ridiculous weather can all make a mess of your holiday travel plans, causing you (and quite possibly everyone around you) to freak out. If you follow the tips below, however, you can avoid the worst stresses of holiday travel and be on your merry way to a relaxing celebration with family and friends.

Avoid long faces and holiday disappointment by packing ALL gifts in your carry on. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Avoid long faces and holiday disappointment by packing ALL gifts in your carry-on. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

1. Travel light. If possible, don’t check any bags so that you can skip some of the longest airport lines both before and after your flight and avoid the risk of lost or damaged luggage. If you do decide to check a bag, make sure to put any gifts in your carry-on so that even if you arrive sans checked luggage, Christmas won’t be entirely ruined.

Have a Plan B...in case things don't go your way.
Have a Plan B…in case things don’t go your way.

2. Stay informed and prepare a Plan B. Keep those airline phone numbers on speed-dial, be aware of a few hotels where you can use your points in case you get stranded at your layover destination, and make sure to follow your chosen carrier(s) on social media to keep yourself updated on flight cancellations and delays. Helpful apps for flight and airport information are Next Flight, Gate Guru and Flight Aware, and it’s a good idea to bookmark the websites for the Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Transportation so that just in case your transit experience goes awry, you’ll have quick access to a refresher of your traveler’s rights.

Be flexible this holiday season. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Be flexible this holiday season. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

3. Be flexible. Build a little leeway into your travel dates in case things don’t go as planned. You’ll stay calm knowing that even if there are flight delays or cancellations, you’ll still get home in time for the holidays.

This dude flew nonstop on off peak dates, and look how happy he is! Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
This dude flew nonstop on off peak dates, and look how happy he is! Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

4. Fly non-stop and travel “off-peak.” If you can avoid stop-overs and travel on off-peak dates (aka not December 20, 26 or 31), you’ll encounter airports and flights that are less crowded and you’ll run into fewer issues related to weather and air traffic.

Stay healthy before holiday air travel. Take precautions not to get sick!
Stay healthy before holiday air travel. Take precautions not to get sick!

5. Stay healthy. Winter is prime time for colds and flu, and being packed onto crowded airplanes and airports in close proximity to other human beings raises your risk of getting someone else’s illness. Leading up to your trip, be sure to eat lots of veggies and fruits, take vitamins, hydrate—whatever it takes to strengthen your immune system. Some TPG Team in-flight, health-boosting favorites include Emergen-C packs, cough drops with zinc, Vitamin Water, and travel-sized hand sanitizer; as for the latter, Bath & Body Works makes some that smell less awful than many others and make great stocking-stuffers.

Avoid panic when your phone dies. Charge it. And bring an extra battery pack or external charger. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Avoid panic when your phone dies. Charge it. And bring an extra battery pack or external charger. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

6. Charge your electronics and have extra battery packs. If you’re stuck somewhere, it’s essential that you have means of communication and of course, entertainment, too. Airport charge-ports are few and far between and you’ll be lucky if you find any free, so come prepared.

Keep an eye on the weather. You may be able to re-book without fees if there are winter storms heading your way.
Keep an eye on the weather. You may be able to re-book without fees if there are winter storms heading your way.

7. Keep an eye on the weather ahead of time because some airlines will let you re-book for free if huge winter storms are predicted. This happened over this year’s Thanksgiving weekend, and it could happen again if bad weather is on the way for Christmas and New Year’s, so stay aware of your flight info and keep an eye out for any nasty weather that may occur.

Plan for the worst. Yes, standing in this line stinks, but if you give yourself extra time, at least you won't miss your flight
Plan for the worst. Yes, standing in this line stinks, but if you give yourself extra time, at least you won’t miss your flight

8. Get to the airport early. You may recall that the security line at Midway Airport the Sunday after Thanksgiving was 1.2 miles long. Was this the fault of TSA? Yes. Will you still miss your flight regardless of whose fault it is? Yes. So arrive at least two hours before your flight, and if you are traveling on peak dates, show up even earlier. Plus, if you’re there early and your flight is overbooked, you’ll have less chance of getting bumped.

You'll breeze through security and customs with Pre-Check and Global Entry
You’ll breeze through security and customs with Pre-Check and Global Entry.

9. Get PreCheck/Global Entry already! This will help you avoid lines and long wait times in security and customs. It’s especially helpful during peak travel times when the airports are extra busy.

Remember that if you have the Platinum Card from American Express or The Enhanced Business Card from American Express OPEN (or Centurion) cards, you can get the fee for Global Entry refunded to you as a statement credit. Even better, the fee is also refunded to additional cardholders, and the annual fee for up to three additional Platinum cardholders is just $175 (and after that, an additional $175 per cardholder), so if just two of your friends/family members gets Global Entry, you’ll earn that fee back—and then some.

Holders of the Citi Prestige card can also get the Global Entry fee refunded. Eligible Global Services, MileagePlus Premier 1K and MileagePlus Premier Platinum members will also be refunded for Global Entry; however, this benefit is going away on February 1, 2015, so make sure to request your refund code by January 31, 2015.

Finally, if you’re a Delta Diamond Medallion or a Delta Platinum Medallion member, you can select Global Entry as one of your Choice Benefits (two $100 vouchers for Diamond, one $100 voucher for Platinum).

Stay positive. Wish someone a Merry Christmas. Have a drink.
Stay positive. Wish someone a Merry Christmas. Have a drink.

10. Show some holiday cheer. You’re most likely heading home or to celebrate the holidays with loved ones, so cheer up—you’ll get there. Remember, everyone in the airport is in the same boat/plane, including the pilots, flight attendants, and even TSA workers who just want to get home, as well. Smile, show some holiday cheer, wish someone a merry Christmas, and if all else fails, turn to alcohol. You never know, being kind, happy and relatively relaxed might just score you an upgrade, a free perk, or at minimum, a smile and some friendly treatment.

The TPG Team wishes you all a safe and happy holiday season, and of course, uneventful and smooth holiday travel.

Any other suggestions out there to help survive holiday travel? Please share in the comments section below!

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