Traveling during the holidays may seem jolly and bright until you get to the airport. Holiday flying adds extra nerves to those who may already be wary of the occasionally long trips. With the surge in travelers visiting loved ones, ever-changing COVID-19 restrictions, unreliable airlines, and unexpected winter weather, flying in the colder holiday months can be excruciating at times. Even seasoned flyers may seem a bit more flustered than usual.
Unfortunately, we cannot control the weather or the airlines. We are here to reassure you that you can take steps to ensure that flying during the holidays is as stress-free as possible.
How To Fly Safely During The Holidays
1. Just Buy the Travel Insurance
With the constantly evolving travel changes, it is imperative (especially for big trips) that you purchase travel insurance in case of cancelation, sickness, or alterations. A solid insurance plan to cover your trip expenses provides peace of mind, and you need not worry even if something happens during your trip.
There are different types of travel coverage, and other airlines and companies offer a slew of options -- You can pick a "travel delay" coverage that covers costs like hotels and meals; "24/7 assistance" coverage helps you gain access to those that can help you in case of travel issues; the "missed connection" range will help you get to your destination if you miss a layover.
2. Watch For Weather & Flight Delays
Be sure to consistently check weather patterns and updates leading up to your travel dates. If you see a storm that could potentially mess with your flight, call the airline providers and speak to them ahead of the hundreds or thousands of people that will be trying to reach them when the storm hits. Also, make a point to follow the airports and airlines on Twitter or their social media channels for the most up-to-date information regarding flights and travel delays. Pay attention to your connecting flight airports as well, as you may be able to re-route your flight to avoid storms.
Remember that the domino effect of flight cancellations in one part of the country could also change flight plans in other parts of the country.
3. Make Back-Up Hotel Reservations
If you suspect that one of your flights may be re-routed or canceled due to holiday weather, be sure to book a refundable hotel room or Airbnb in the city or place you may be stuck in for the night. There might not be much worse than being stuck in an airport on Christmas because all flights are canceled, and the hotel rooms are full. Sleeping in a comfy hotel bed is always better than the airport floor, especially during the holidays.
4. Book Early & Non-Stop Flights When Possible
Although most of us dread waking up at the ungodly hour of 4 a.m. to make the earliest flight out of town, booking the early flight can significantly work in your favor in cases of holiday travel.
Bonuses of taking the early flight include shorter security lines, having more options in case of unfortunate happenings, and having the ability to re-work your flight schedule to a later time in the day if possible.
Another insider's tip when booking holiday travel is always to book non-stop if you can -- Fewer flights equal less room for mess-ups. Most issues occur for travelers at their connecting airports. If the first flight is canceled, you can usually go home and wait it out. If the connecting flight is canceled, and you are stuck at a random Midwest airport, not so lucky.
Believe us when we say it is worth paying a little more to have a more seamless travel day. If you cannot find a direct flight, pay close attention to the layover times and give yourself enough time in case of delays or weather-related problems.
5. Pack For Anything
Another way you can make holiday flying more bearable is to pack wisely. Prepare a few extra items for you and your group to make a canceled flight or long airport stint more fun and comfortable.
Do not put your necessities in your checked bag. Always keep the basics in your carry-on in case of emergencies -- These items include your toothbrush, medications, contact lenses, underwear, an extra layer of clothes, a pack of cards, or an extra book to read if you are stuck on the tarmac longer than expected. Also, always bring a portable battery charger for your phone so that you are not stranded with a dead phone (the worst)!
6. Don't Bother Wrapping Gifts
Someone who flies during the holidays every year may have this one down, but those newer to flying during the holidays may not know the golden rule. If you are traveling with gifts for family members, do NOT wrap them beforehand, as security must unwrap and check them. This applies to both your checked bags and carry-on bags.
Either fly with your wrapping supplies or handle the wrapping job when you get there. You can also just ship your gifts ahead of time and save everyone a potential headache.
7. Be Aware of COVID-19 Regulations
The pandemic still lingers during the 2021 holiday season. As of November 10, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends all domestic air travelers delay their trips until they are fully vaccinated.
You and your fellow passengers should wear masks over your nose and mouth both on the plane and in and around U.S. airports. And social distancing is still encouraged!
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