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Insider Series: Five Tips for Surviving Holiday Travel

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With the holiday travel season about to hit peak craziness, TPG Insider Carrie A. Trey discusses a few of her tips for surviving delays, full flights and more. 

With a few exceptions, travel has become at best stressful and at worst, well … just plain feral. Even though things may seem even more chaotic during peak summer times, holiday travel is no walk in the park, with crying babies by the truckload; endless weather delays; sweaty sprints through overcrowded terminals to make that flight that turns out to be delayed. Having spent countless holidays traveling as both a passenger and a crewmember, I’ll share a few ways to make it to your destination with your sanity intact.

1. Go to your happy place.

When confronted with stressful travel, remember to do something nice for yourself.
When confronted with stressful travel, remember to do something nice for yourself. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

No, not your cottage on Fire Island or that resort you love on Maui. I’m talking about your everyday happy place; what you do to escape from it all. Maybe it’s the dark-chocolate sea-salt caramels that you swore off or an episode of that TV show you never have time to watch — whatever helps you decompress, put it in your carry on. When the going gets tough, you and the people around you will be better off for it.

2. Just check it!

Checking a bag can save time and hassle when it counts.
Checking a bag can save time and hassle when it counts. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Carry-on baggage can be one of the biggest hassles with holiday travel (and sometimes even they can get misplaced). We’ve all been there before: You pack everything but the kitchen sink; have to fight for overhead space; and end up with no legroom because you have to stuff a large bag under the seat in front of you. Just check it. Yes, you’ll pay $25 (unless, of course, you have an airline co-branded credit card that entitles you to one or more complimentary checked bags). But honestly, what’s $25 when it can save you the stress? In this situation, it’s worth just checking the bag to have one less thing to worry about on a travel day.

3. Timing is everything.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Plan long enough flight connections to avoid heaps of stress on travel day. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Holiday travelers often have to contend with cancellations and delays, many of which are weather-related (hello, snowstorms!). Yes, that 40-minute connection in Atlanta looks good on paper, but in reality it’s setting yourself up for a missed flight. Book the 2-hour connection instead, thus giving yourself a margin for error. If everything is on schedule, you bought yourself time to enjoy coffee or a cocktail. Also, always pack a bathing suit. You never know where the delays and cancellations might leave you stranded, and once the skies clear you’ll want to enjoy the pool at the nice “resort “the airline put you up at (assuming the delay was the airline’s fault, of course).

4. Pack a survival kit.

Pack some essentials to tide you through any major travel delays. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
Pack some essentials to tide you through any major travel delays. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Every holiday traveler should have a survival kit. Even if you do time your connections well, you never know where you’ll end up and for how long. The kit should include your happy place item (obviously) along with deodorant, extra underwear, a toothbrush, a T-shirt and maybe even a few liquor minis. When the proverbial poo hits the fan, think of all the lines you won’t have to stand in; you can get to the hotel ahead of all the less-prepared folk who have to wait for airline-issued survival kits with far less cooler (and less useful) items than yours!

5. Keep your cool.

Keep calm and carry on — though not necessarily your luggage!
Keep calm and carry on — though not necessarily your luggage! Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

When all else fails and you do end up delayed, canceled, rerouted, diverted or just plain stuck, keep your cool. Remember that the vast majority of delays around the holidays are indeed weather-related and thus not the fault of the airline nor the one agent rebooking all 150 of you. Triple Platinum 18K Elite Status won’t do anything for you if you’re screaming at the agent on the other side of the counter. The customer who actually gets that coveted last seat on the next flight out or the suite at the hotel is the one who says please and thank you. Having been in the service industry for over fifteen years now, I can guarantee you that the customer who shows even a little bit of empathy for those they want it back from get just that: the empathy, compassion and upgrade they’re looking for. Stay calm, cool and collected and it will all work out.

I wish all of you a joyous, happy holiday season filled with friends, love and laughter. And of course, a happy, healthy, prosperous and travel-filled 2016 to all!

What are your favorite tips for surviving holiday travel? Share them in the comments below!

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