Ready or not, the holidays are starting to creep up on us! Here are a few tips from Alfred, the Globetrotting Gnome, to help you get home to see your family and friends without ending up grumpy like the Grinch!
1. Pack Healthy Snacks: The only thing worse than being hangry is being hangry in the airport. Pack snacks to resist the lure of greasy overpriced airport food. Nuts, fruit and pretzels are healthy alternatives. I usually pack a turkey sandwich to eat right after the plane takes off. Be sure to stay hydrated by packing a water bottle like Klean Kateen or Yeti, which is better for both the environment and your bank account!
2. Book the Red Eye Flights: Early morning flights at major U.S. airports statistically have significantly less delays according to the Bureau of Transportation. The on-time percentage is best between 6-7 a.m. but stays fairly high until 8 a.m.
Check out the Bureau of Transportation website for helpful statistics and monthly reports about specific flight routes and airlines that are chronically late. FiveThirtyeight.com also has a great story on flight statistics. Getting up super early is significantly better than spending an entire day (or two) in the airport!
3. Carry-on Luggage: I am convinced that the majority of travel stress is directly related to the amount of luggage you carry. The less luggage you have, the less your back with hurt. Mail gifts ahead of time to your relatives’ house and then, simply wrap them when you arrive.
4. Plan Long Layovers: To avoid delays, fly direct if at all possible. If a direct flight isn’t an option, add an extra hour or two of buffer time for layovers just in case either flight is delayed to avoid further hassles like getting stuck in Dallas overnight.
5. Stay an Extra Few Days: Flights are normally cheaper if you leave a few days before the holiday or stay a few days later. Crowds will also thin significantly. Flying on the actual holiday itself is a great way to save money, too. Apps like Hopper are a great tool to determine the cheapest days to fly to both maximize your savings and time with family.
6. Pack a Good Book: Nothing increases your patience levels than having a good book to read. I make it a point to always carry a good paperback travel book to remind me why I travel despite the hassles and to inspire me to travel more! A few favorites I recommend are Paul Theroux’s The Great Railroad Bazaar, Pico Iyer’s The Open Road and Beryl Markham’s West with the Night. All are available in Kindle editions and paperback.
7. Skip the Airport: Do you really need to fly? Consider alternate forms of transport. Can you carpool with friends, take the Amtrak or a bus? Aside from a freak snowstorm, there’s a significantly less chance of delays when you aren’t flying.
8. Pack a good Pillow: I never thought it was possible to be in love with a pillow until I discovered this Sea to Summit one. I have been on the quest to find a good travel pillow for years. Foam neck pillows are too bulky, and cheap inflatable pillows won’t last the entire flight. (Plus, they are annoying to blow up.) Airline pillows always hurt my neck on long flights. When an employee at REI recommended the Sea to Summit pillow to me, I was hesitant. I bought it on sale a few months later and took it on my trip to Iceland. It was super easy to inflate with minimal effort, holds air extraordinarily well AND it packs super light. I’m seriously in love with this pillow!