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We’re now only days away from one of the busiest travel weekends of the year. With Christmas Eve falling on a Monday, airports are expected to see 45.7 million travelers pass through their gates between Dec. 20 and Jan. 6, according to Airlines for America. That’s a 5.2% uptick in air passenger traffic.
This influx of travelers will, per usual, result in overcrowding, increased security measures and, most significantly, elevated stress levels for everyone involved. Below are a handful of travel hacks you can implement to make your travels this holiday season as stress free as possible.
Use Your Perks
If you have status for 2018, now’s the time to utilize your free regional or global upgrades before they expire at the end of the year. If you don’t have any left, considering asking a friend who still has some upgrades and isn’t planning on using them. Most airlines allow loyalty members to gift upgrades to other loyalty members and, as they rarely roll over into 2019, it’s a great holiday gift.
Ship Your Presents
Every gift you’re planning on bringing to your holiday destination should be shipped ahead of time. Don’t be the person flying with a paper grocery bag full of wrapped presents. There are a lot of reasons Amazon Prime exists: two-day shipping is one of them.
Bring Only One Winter Jacket
Pack it in your checked bag as opposed to wearing it on the flight to conserve space. The extra padding and increase in temperature will just make your seatmates more uncomfortable than they already are. Another trick for holiday travel? Buying a versatile 3-in-1 jacket from companies such as Patagonia or the North Face instead.
Leave the Winter Boots at Home
Unless you’re spending your holidays at the North Pole, leave the knee-cut galoshes in your closet. Instead, stock up on SmartWool socks and pack a nice compact pair of waterproof Sorel or Tretorn ankle cut rubber shoes. They do just as good a job as winter boots and take up a fraction of the space in your suitcase.
And Ditch the Santa Hat
I’m half kidding. Bring the Santa hat if it makes you feel better. Just don’t wear it in the terminal unless you want strange children coming up to you and asking you for presents.
If you fly often, you probably have your departure time from your home and your timing through security down cold. All of that goes out the window this weekend. It’s important to arrive at the airport a full two hours before your flight.
Keep Calm and (Don’t) Carry-On
I realize this may be an unpopular suggestion, but if you really want to stave off stress this holiday season, check every bag you have, even if you don’t need to. This is to avoid having to jockey for overhead bin space with people who might not fully understand the phrase “one carry-on and one personal item per individual.” Pack everything you don’t need for the flight into your checked bag and bring your electronics and any additional support items onboard with you in one single, small bag. Obviously, keep in mind the hazards of checking a bag if your holiday travel plans involve switching airlines or tight connections.
Get Through Security
At this point, if you don’t have TSA PreCheck, CLEAR or Global Entry, may the travel Gods have mercy on your soul. And you might want to arrive at the airport three hours before your flight. This is the weekend that a lot of people are traveling for the first time all year. There will be confusion regarding IDs, metal detectors and what can and cannot remain in carry-on luggage. Remember to take a deep breath and remind yourself that everybody wants to get where their going as much as you do. This too shall pass.
Get Lounge Access
If you do make it through security efficiently and you have time to kill, don’t spend it in the overcrowded terminal. Instead, get access to an airport lounge. That usually means traveling with The Platinum Card® from American Express or the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Depending on the airport, the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard could be useful for entry to Admirals Clubs. You may also want to consider signing up for the United MileagePlus Club Card, which affords you access to all United lounges and some Star Alliance lounges, and lets you bypass travelers who bought one-time passes.
If you don’t have a credit card that gets you lounge access, purchase a one-time pass to a lounge so you can maximize your time spent waiting for your flight. Here you can have a snack and enjoy a holiday cocktail. Or two. During the crazy holiday travel season, it will be a worthwhile splurge.
Stretch and Breathe
Some major airports have quiet rooms for meditation and yoga. If you can’t get into the lounge and just want somewhere you can stretch (or simply take a deep breath), consider locating a yoga room. This should be easy if you’re flying out of San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Chicago O’Hare (ORD), Chicago Midway (MDW), Dallas-Fort Worth Airport (DFW), Burlington Airport (BTV), Sioux Falls Airport (FSD), Helsinki Airport (HEL), London Heathrow Airport (LHR) or Frankfurt Airport (FRA), but there are others. Use the Sanctifly app to locate airport wellness facilities near you, or partner facilities nearby like airport hotel gyms and independent fitness centers. Namaste.
Bring Noise-Canceling Headphones
There will be babies crying, people standing in the aisle and every seat will be filled. People will grumble because of delays and bad weather. But you won’t hear any of it because you’ll be wearing your noise-canceling headphones. If you need additional help blocking out distractions on the flight, apps such as Headspace and Calm will teach you breathing exercises and help you meditate from the relative comfort of your seat.
Thank Your Crew
If you don’t already thank your flight crew when you deplane plane, this is absolutely the weekend to do so. And it’s likely to be especially difficult on your cabin crew, so why not thank them before the flight with a small gift? It will make them feel appreciated and give them a nice moment of positivity before your flight takes off. Remember to give something that’s prepackaged (no homemade food) and preferably something local, like See’s Candy from San Francisco. If you’re lucky, they may return the favor at some point in the flight with a complimentary glass of holiday cheer.
Remember, this is not the time to wish ill on any of your fellow travelers. Instead, wish them a safe and happy holiday weekend! Good luck out there.
Featured image by izusek / Getty Images.
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