If you’re flying home for the holidays, then you’re probably as apprehensive about surviving the airport chaos, as you are excited to get home. Between weather delays, overbooked flights, and luggage packed full of presents, the holiday season adds a few extra stressors to the typical travel experience. Use these tips in our ultimate airport survival guide to make your trip home as painless as possible so you can focus on what matters most–celebrating with your loved ones.
Get a digital boarding pass.
Many airlines will let you load your boarding pass to your smart phone. That way you have one less thing to worry about losing as you go through security. iPhone users should look for an “Add to Passbook” option when they check-in for their flight.
Sign up for alerts.
Make sure you sign up to receive real-time flight updates via text, call or email. When you’re rushing to the airport, you won’t have to worry about checking your flight status because they’ll contact you if anything changes.
Check in early.
If an airline is overbooked and needs to bump passengers, you probably don’t want it to be you and risk missing the holiday ham. If no one volunteers and an airline has to resort to involuntarily bumping, they will typically start with the lowest fare class and bump those who checked in last.
Consider curbside check-in.
It will cost you a few extra bucks per bag, but could save you a lot of time and hassle. And if ever there was a time to cut back on hassle, it’s when you’re traveling around the holidays.
If your flight is cancelled due to winter weather, then you want to be first in line at customer service. If the line is too long, try calling the 1-800 number. If you think your flight is going to be cancelled, you may be able to plan head. In anticipation of cancellations, some airlines allow passengers to switch to later flights for no change fee.
Color tag your luggage.
Tie a brightly colored ribbon to your suitcase so you can easily identify it on the luggage carousel. This is a tried and true strategy that is particularly beneficial during the busy holiday travel season.
Leave gifts unwrapped.
If you’ll be flying with your presents, don’t wrap gifts in advance. While it’s not against the rules to wrap presents, TSA may have to unwrap your presents for inspection.
Don’t forget the 3.4 ounce rule.
It applies to more than just your shampoo and conditioner. If you want to carry on jam, cranberry sauce, maple syrup, wine and yes, snow globes – the liquid has to be under 3.4 ounces. Otherwise, you will need to check it or ship it ahead of time. You are permitted to bring more solid food items like pies and cakes through security checkpoints.
Weigh your bag in advance.
Overweight bags can come with a hefty fee. If your bags are laden with presents, be sure to weigh them. A simple way to do this is to hold your bag and step on the scale then subtract your weight. Setting a bag directly on the bathroom scale will typically give you a less accurate result.
Carry-on empty water bottles.
You can’t bring a full bottle of water through security, but, keeping your family hydrated via the airport gift shop could easily cost you $20. Bring empty water bottles and fill up when you get through security. Consider a bottle with a built in filtration system like the CamelBak Groove or WaterU FreshSip.
Consider a splurge.
If your flight gets delayed or you have a long layover and you want to minimize your travel stress, then it may be worth it to pay for a one-day pass to your airline’s premium lounge. A day pass will typically cost you around $50.
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