Your Holiday Air Travel Survival Guide

While the holiday season is undoubtedly the greatest time of year, it can also be a very stressful time for many people. And we’re not only talking about preparing holiday dinner and getting everything ready before the entire family arrives.

Traveling by plane, which is a stressful activity in itself, can be many times more frustrating during the busy Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Years Day season, when airports are busier than ever. After all, whether you like it or not, pretty much everyone else has the same idea during this period, whether it's traveling home to spend time with family and friends or flying off on vacation to a warm, tropical locale.

To help you make the best of an unpleasant experience and eliminate as much of the hassle as possible, here are five tips for making your time at the airport more pleasant and less stressful in the upcoming weeks.

Pre-Book Airport Lounge Access

The airport terminal can be a crowded, noisy, and hectic place, making it less-than-ideal for relaxation, not to mention getting some work done or even finding an open spot to charge your electronic devices. During these trying times, the best thing you can do is purchase access to an airport lounge to get away from it all.

Instead of paying separately for snacks, drinks, warm food, fast wi-fi, and reading material, access your very own airport oasis instead in exchange for a reasonable one-time fee. Inside the lounge, you can enjoy all the previously named amenities and more: comfortable seating areas, plenty of power outlets to charge your phone, and unlimited food and beverages - all of this in a peaceful, tranquil atmosphere far removed from the hustle and bustle outside.

To guarantee your spot in the lounge, simply book access in advance with LoungeBuddy today for almost 200 locations worldwide. Lounges are also an excellent spot to wait during the inevitable weather delays that take place in the winter.

Enroll in a Trusted Traveler Program or CLEAR

Airport security lines can become jam packed at peak times, with wait times up to half an hour or more. To save yourself the trouble of having to stand and wait in these long queues, it may be worth it to enroll in a Trusted Traveler Program if you fly more than a couple times a year.

By joining TSA Pre-Check, you’ll have access to priority security lanes at most major US airports that move significantly faster. One of the benefits of going through these special lanes is that you won’t have to remove your shoes, belts, and light jackets. You can even keep your laptop and liquids inside your bag instead of taking them out and putting them into a separate tray.

If you travel internationally more than a couple times a year, it may be worth it to apply for Global Entry membership. Global Entry provides you with access to both TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry, an expedited clearance program that allows you to pass US Customs much more quickly upon arrival into the country, for only $15 more.

Alternatively, you can enroll in CLEAR, a fast track service that allows you to skip ahead to the front of the airport security line, getting you through the process in almost no time at all.

Arrive Early and Be Prepared

As conventional wisdom goes, it’s always better to leave home and arrive at the airport early to provide a cushion for unexpected situations that can cut into a significant chunk of your time. These situations can range from being stuck in one of the long airport security lanes to waiting in the middle of heavy traffic on the freeway.

If you can, it might make sense to choose a flight that departs earlier in the morning, when significantly fewer people are traveling, as opposed to the late afternoon and evening hours. Because of lower demand during this time, booking an early flight could potentially save you a good amount of money, as well. In addition, be sure to take advantage of online check-in for your flight, and don’t forget to print out your boarding pass or download it onto your phone before you leave home.

Keep Track of Restrictions and Requirements

If you’ve ever stood in an airport security line behind someone who keeps setting off the metal detector because they left their keys in their pockets or did not take off their belt, you’ve probably come to the realization that the process could be much more efficient if passengers had the rules memorized by heart going in. By taking a bit of time to familiarize yourself with the different restrictions and requirements for going through airport security - removing shoes, belts, coins and keys, and jackets, along with your laptop and liquids, you’ll help to ensure that lines at the airport move much more smoothly then they would otherwise.

In addition, be sure to check whether your baggage meets the dimensional and weight requirements to ensure that they do not go above set limits. This could potentially save you a lot of hassle once you’re at the airport, especially if you’re flying on a carrier that charges an arm and a leg for exceeding these requirements.

Pack Light And Dress For Comfort

It's usually a good idea to pack as little as possible within reason, ideally condensing all your stuff into one carry on item and one bag. This will help you to not only evade baggage fees, but also avoid dealing with lost or misplaced luggage, which tends to happen more often during the busy holiday travel season. Not only that, you’ll also be able to leave the airport much earlier without having to wait for your luggage to arrive on the carousel.

If you have a lot of clothing that just won’t fit into one bag, it may be a good idea to wear as many layers as you’re comfortable with, which will make it much easier to keep your luggage to a minimum. The temperature on airplanes can also drop significantly, so layering up can be a great idea once you’re on the plane, as well.

In addition to the tips mention above, you can never go wrong with keeping a positive attitude. Keep your spirits high, avoid getting too worked up about unavoidable setbacks, enjoy the festive atmosphere, and you’ll be well on your way to making the most of your air travel experience.

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