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Avoiding Holiday Travel Hassles: Having traveled abroad since my teenage years as an exchange student, I returned home Christmas Eve after one of the worst return travel sagas. It was not filled with flight delays or surprise blizzards. However, it had “routine” stumbling blocks that made me (almost) wonder why I left home!
Here are some of my personal tips that you can still consider for the next holiday:
Avoiding Holiday Travel Hassles: Timing Counts:
AVOID TRAVEL 24 HOURS BEFORE THE HOLIDAY.
For holidays from Thanksgiving to Christmas and New Year’s, don’t fly the day before the main event. Why? The big crowds are there to get where they are going ahead of time. In past years, I flew to London and even Cambodia on Christmas Day. I was able to have a traditional holiday celebration with family and friends Christmas Eve. The next day the airport was busy but not a crushing mob.
Avoiding Holiday Travel Hassles: Traveling Light:
EVEN EMPTY ROLLER BAGS WEIGH MORE THAN YOU THINK! Why does this matter? As I discovered yesterday in Europe, even the world’s largest airports may have you go up and down stairs to the plane if no gate is available. In a light rain, I found that when you can’t roll the bag, that carrying it up and down stairs is no mean feat. Point two: Whoever invented overhead bins, never thought about how passengers can struggle with getting bags in and out.
PACKING LIGHT ISN’T JUST ABOUT WHAT IS IN YOUR BAG. Even in dead of winter, don’t fly with a long coat. Why? Some seat backs have a hook for a jacket. More typically, it goes in the overhead bin in the scant space left between roller bags.
Avoiding Holiday Travel Hassles: Be Strategic:
TRY NOT TO USE CONNECTING FLIGHTS BETWEEN COUNTRIES. Why? Even if you have nothing to declare in Customs, you will likely have to wait in line at Passport Control. That can mean missed flights. In my travels and travails yesterday, I found my overseas flight was at Gate Z62! That’s right! Having run out of the remaining alphabet, my gate was almost in another country. I barely made the second flight. I have had this happen even when transferring to a flight operated by the same carrier.
ALWAYS ASK QUESTIONS. In an overbooked flight, if you have miles or some budget flexibility, do ask whether there are deals for upgrades to Business Class. I asked for an aisle seat in Economy, but none were available. Halfway over the Atlantic Ocean, I discovered that Business Class upgrades at the gate were being sold for just $400. Although I try to stick to a budget, the price was right in light of the overcrowded flight.