8 WAYS TO HACK HOLIDAY AIRPORT TRAVEL
Rolling through the snow, with a well packed carry-on...
Ok, maybe that is not how the song goes but that is the song that should be playing in your head as you gear up to head home or to a fun destination for the holidays.
This is also the time of year many people dread when it comes to the actual act of traveling - not the going somewhere part. That part is fun.
But how can to make the holiday travel time more of a picnic and less of a headache? By doing these simple things that really require little to no effort, but will make your life that much more of a breeze.
1) TRY TO BEAT THE LINES
With TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry
You hear about both of these programs and many people start to get a glassy “deer in headlights” look when trying to decide which one to pursue. It really just depends on what type of a traveler you are.
The easy way to decipher the difference is:
Allows you to bypass processing lines, gives you access to expedited entry benefits in other countries, is available at major U.S. airports and gives you TSA Pre✓®. The program is available to U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents, citizens of Argentina, India, Colombia, the UK, Germany, Panama, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, and Mexican nationals. For my Canadian friends, if you’re a citizen and/or resident you are also eligible for Global Entry benefits through being a member of NEXUS.
TIP TO NOTE:
If you are a global jet-setter and leave the country more than once a year, this is probably your best option.
Open to U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents enrolled in NEXUS or SENTRI, as well as Canadian citizens who are NEXUS members. The benefit of having TSA Pre✓® is it expedites the screening process through TSA checkpoints, aka you don’t have to filter through with the rest of the people in the long and tedious security lines.
TIP TO NOTE:
If you don’t travel a lot internationally then this is probably the better option for you. You also don’t need a passport to apply for this program, whereas for Global Entry you do.
2) SAVE A TREE (AND YOUR SANITY)
Check-in online and download your mobile boarding pass
I can’t tell you how many times I have seen people who clearly don’t need to check bags wait in those long lines just to get their boarding pass printed out by a desk agent.
Some airports and airlines (i.e. Southwest Airlines at Portland International Airport) have kiosks set up so you literally don’t ever have to talk to a human. They allow you to check-in, print your boarding pass, check a bag and even tag it yourself!
But not all airports have seen the ways of the future and still make you want to pull your hair out as you trudge along in line with all of the other grumpy travelers.
An easy way out of this situation is to check-in online as soon as your flight opens that up and download your boarding pass to your phone. Many times you don’t even need to download the airlines app, you can have the pass texted directly to you or you can just screenshot it. As long as that QR code is legible you will get through security and to your gate.
A key factor in making this run as smoothly as possible is your luggage situation. Which leads me to my next point…
3) CARRY ON = REDUCING YOUR HOARDING TENDENCIES
You don’t need all that crap
Why for the love of all that is holy do you think you need to have a carry-on AND a roller bag that is larger than a 10-year-old? Are you moving? Because that would be the only acceptable reason for this.
If you’re simply traveling to see family, or visit friends, or even go on a 2-week winter holiday somewhere, there is no reason you need to lug around that much crap.
Take it from someone who has traveled to Scandinavia AND Canada in the dead of winter with only a carry-on, or better yet take it from the tons of people who backpack for months and seasons on end (in literally only a backpack), you can fit what you need into a standard European sized carry-on. I reference this type of carry on simply for the fact that this is the baseline for carrying on for a budget airline such as RyanAir – so use it as your personal baseline for all your travels.
If you really feel as though you will die with only a carry-on, bring a backpack as your personal item. And if you’re still questioning how you will get everything you need into your carry-on look below. Trust me, you’ll be fine.
TIP TO NOTE: In order to help you fit as much as possible in your carry-on invest in packing cubes and/or compression bags. I purchased these babies a while back and they have been a HUGE space and lifesaver!
4) BRING THE ENTERTAINMENT WITH YOU (VIA STREAMING DOWNLOADS)
Don’t rely on the in-flight system
I’ve mentioned it before in my 10 Tips for International Travel post, utilizing the download feature on your Netflix and Amazon apps is a lifesaver! I’ve been on a flight before where my TV was the only one in the row that didn’t work and I wanted to die. I’ve also been on a flight before where they literally gave every, single person on the plane a preloaded iPad (which is definitely not the norm).
Avoid any potential boredom (or added Wi-Fi costs you would have incurred before knowing this tip) by logging into your apps and downloading all the TV shows and movies you want. Not only will you have a backup option, once downloaded these programs don’t require a Wi-Fi or cell service connection to be streamed.
5) OWN YOUR SEAT
With all of the comforts (and amenities) of home
Have you ever been sitting on the plane and thought to yourself, “I wish I had XX”? Or even worse, “Crap! I totally forgot XX”! It happens to the best of us.
There’s nothing wrong with being uber prepared. Most likely your seat mate (whoever that may be) will look over and get a tinge of jealously because they forgot something basic and you came in owning your window seat!
TIP TO NOTE: Now is the time to invest in an Amazon Prime account. Seriously, you don't realize how handy it is until you have that "oh s***" moment a couple days before your flight! Plus, where else can you stream all of the seasons of Downton Abbey?
- A good book
- Earplugs (and/or noise cancelling headphones)
- Eye Mask
- Collapsible Water Bottle (so you don’t have to ask for a million baby airplane bottles)
- Medications/Vitamins just in case (and get something to carry them in)
- Neck pillow
- Toothbrush, Toothpaste, and Facial Wipes
- A Snack (not all plane food is created equal)
- Sweatshirt & socks (Airplane cabins are always so effing chilly, and bonus these items don’t count towards your carry-on and personal item “allowance”)
6) SCORE EXTRA CASH FROM OVERSOLD FLIGHTS
I assume you gave yourself some wiggle room
Are you one of those people to leaves everything to the last minute, including your flight getting into wherever you need to be just in the nick of time? Then, this tip may not work for you.
If you're not that person, or are willing to be a little more flexible, then take advantage of the busy holiday season and the chance that many flights will get overbooked.
You don’t even need to wait until they ask for volunteers, just offer yourself up to be bumped. By doing this you could literally score hundreds of dollars (or even more), as long as you’re willing to be flexible. Although, a good strategy is to wait until they ask for volunteers and keep waiting until the last possible second. They usually keep upping the dollar amount each time they ask because no one really wants to be bumped from their flight. Yes you do risk delaying yourself by an entire day, but in general you will only be delayed by a few hours. And really, wherever you’re going, do you really have to be there by a certain time?
7) PREPARE FOR THE WORST
You can’t control the weather, you aren't Storm from X-Men
As someone who tends to travel more in the winter than in the summer (I go during off-season when things are cheaper people) I have experienced canceled flights due to the weather and hearing that dreaded phrase “due to circumstances out of our control we cannot cover your hotel costs”.
Around this time of year, especially if you’re not heading south for the winter, cancelled flights are a very real possibility. Just go in, in the headspace knowing that this could happen, and knowing that you are not going to be compensated for the inconvenience, and then if and when it does happen you won’t turn into the Grinch. And also cushion your budget a little bit just in case you do need to shell out more money vs sleeping at the airport.
TIP TO NOTE:
Check yourself before you snap at the airline employee, who undoubtedly has to give this unfortunate news to everyone and their mother. Think of it like an added day of adventure!
And speaking of being nice to airline employees…
8) KEEP YOURSELF OFF THE NAUGHTY LIST
Like your mama said: treat others how you would like to be treated
Most people are not going to say they really love dealing with people at the airport. Yes, they love the thrill of knowing they are going somewhere new or fun or whatever, but dealing with the hordes of annoying people is not usually at the top of someone’s list.
That being said the holidays make this situation especially worse – although I’m not sure why. People get nuts during the holidays for some reason, when it’s supposed to be a time for relaxing and enjoying life. The people that get the brunt of this? The airport and airline employees. Yes, customer service is part of their job, but do you really have to let your Mr. Hyde come out and be a dick?
Do you see someone getting flustered? Offer to help them.
Is something not going your way? Take a deep breath.
Did someone just cut (and potentially shove) you out of the way to get in front of you in line to get on the plane? Remember, they aren’t getting to your destination any faster.
Or like I mentioned earlier, did your flight just get cancelled? Put yourself in the airline employees shoes who just received a massive line up in front of their desk.
You’re not moving to the airport you’re just passing through.
By no means are these all of the "hacks" to get you through the holiday season. But maybe, just maybe, your journey will be a little smoother and less stressful with these tips.
Do you have any other tips that help you get through holiday season travel? Let me know in the comments, and pin one of the images below for future reference!