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Stress-free Holiday Travel: Expert Advice

For air travel:

Airplane waiting for take-off

Expert advice for stress-free flying.

  • Book your ticket ASAP. If you must book last minute, remember, you have options. The key to securing the best deal is flexibility in travel dates — ask your ASTA travel agent to check into holiday fares; the slow week between Christmas and New Year’s; or consider flying into an alternate airport and renting a car. If your holiday vacation includes international travel, make sure you have a valid passport. Your travel agent can advise you on the new rules and how to apply.
  • Arrive early. Difficult airport parking, long lines at security checkpoints and the possibility of the airline overselling the flight and bumping passengers, should all be considered when deciding what time to arrive at the airport. Give yourself plenty of extra time. Need some incentive? Keep in mind that those who arrive earliest for an overbooked flight stand the greatest chance of staying onboard.
  • Keep a close eye on all your belongings. Just as airports are extremely crowded during the peak holiday period with travelers, they can also be fraught with thieves working the airports. Be aware of your surroundings and maintain a close watch over tickets, wallets, purses, and other belongings at all times.
  • Avoid getting bumped. 1) Get an advance seat assignment. Passengers with seat assignments are typically only bumped if they arrive late and their seat assignment is released. 2) Check-in online. Most airlines allow you to do so within 24 hours of departure. Seat assignments that were not available at the time of ticketing may be available when checking in online. 3) Don’t be late. If all else fails, get to the airport early. Some airlines reserve a portion of their seat assignment inventory for airport check-in. If you are denied a seat assignment at check-in, put your name on the “standby” seat assignment list.
  • Remember 3-1-1. New regulations limit the amount of gels and liquids passengers can take through security in their carry-on luggage to travel-size toiletries of three (3) ounces or less that fit comfortably in one (1) quart-size, clear plastic zip-top bag and the one (1) bag per passenger must be placed in the screening bin.
  • Know your limits. Pack light and know baggage limits. Some airlines now allow only one carry-on and charge for first and second checked bags. Ship your gifts to your destination ahead of time. If you choose to travel with your gifts, leave them unwrapped. With safety a priority for all airlines, security personnel will need access to all items. Pack collapsible gift bags to be used as wrapping upon arrival.

Red car dashboard with white steering wheel

For travel by car:

  • Plan itineraries and arrange accommodations well in advance. Reservations for hotels, restaurants and rental cars get booked quickly during peak travel times. Your travel agent can help you get the lowest rate and make sure your rental car has room for your family, luggage and whatever souvenirs you bring home.
  • Get a tune up. Before any long-distance drive, make sure to have your oil changed and your brakes, fluids and tire pressure checked. The slightest deficiency in air pressure significantly reduces your car’s gas mileage. On the flip side, too much air can result in a flat.
  • Get an early start to avoid holiday gridlock. Traveling during late night/early morning hours helps. The worst times to travel are after meals since most travelers postpone leaving until they’ve eaten with their families. Make sure that all drivers are thoroughly rested.

    Red Mini Cooper with white stripes driving on road

    Mini Cooper



Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor

RFT co-founder Bobbie Hasselbring has been a travel junkie her entire life. An award-winning writer and editor for more than 25 years and author of the regional food-travel bestsellers, The Chocolate Lover’s Guide to the Pacific Northwest and The Chocolate Lover’s Guide Cookbook, Bobbie is editor-in-chief at realfoodtraveler.com.