Whether you're dining out of state for Thanksgiving or visiting faraway relatives for Christmas, the airport can be a toxic mess when the holidays roll around. Standstill highway traffic, nerve-wracking long security lines, confusing airport terminals, and luggage that is this close to being too heavy for the flight's policy can leave you dreading your trip.
Fortunately, the airport doesn't have to ruin your magical holiday season. By preparing in advance and heeding some of the following tips, you can feel prepared and even have time to grab a calming hot chocolate at the terminal.
If Possible, Fly Earlier or Later Than the Crowds
This is probably easier said than done, but if you can purchase flights that leave a little before or after the peak times, you'll most likely avoid long lines and stupidly high prices. Generally speaking, try not to fly out on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, which is a notoriously hectic day for airports. Late night or super early morning flights also tend to be less pricey and popular, if you're willing to sacrifice a few hours of precious sleep.
Overestimate How Long It Will Take You to Reach Your Terminal
At first glance, it looks like it will take you 45 minutes to reach the airport and less than half an hour to get through security, so leaving your house an hour and a half before your flight is fine, right? Well, not exactly. Never assume that traffic, security lines, or other obstacles won't hold you up. In fact, while traveling at this time of year, you should assume that something will set you back.
Therefore, it's generally safe to assume that you should arrive at the airport at least two hours in advance and double the amount of time you think it'll take you to reach the airport. I know, it sounds ridiculously time-consuming to overbudget like that, but you'll thank yourself when there's a huge accident on the highway or TSA decides to make you repack your entire suitcase on the spot.
Sign Up for TSA PreCheck in Advance
Speaking of TSA, have you heard of their fabulous new program? According to their website, 97% of people who have signed up for TSA PreCheck wait less than five minutes to get through security. Plus, you don't have to remove your shoes, laptops, liquids, jackets, or belts! Not only does the service save you precious minutes, but it also makes the security process less of a drag. To sign up, you'll need to apply online, head to the airport for a background check once, and pay an $85 fee that will cover you for the next five years. Those steps might sound annoying, but most participants will say that the price is totally worth the benefits.
Don't Travel With Wrapped Gifts in Your Carry-On
Did you know that TSA officials can open any presents you might have in your bag, even if they're already beautifully wrapped? It probably won't happen, but just to be on the safe side, plan to wrap your gifts once you reach your final destination. If you absolutely must travel with a wrapped gift, pack it in your checked luggage where it's less likely to be disturbed, but be aware that checked luggage is more likely to end up lost in transit.
Weigh Your Luggage the Night Before the Flight
If your airline company has weight limits on carry-ons or checked bags, don't play the guessing game. Purchase a small luggage scale on Amazon and make sure that your piece is within the acceptable range. There's nothing worse than paying the overweight surcharge at the last minute, or heaven forbid, unpacking your suitcase in front of everyone to make it work. Give yourself some peace of mind by keeping your bag well under the required weight.
Dress in Comfortable Layers
While in flight, airplanes are often uncomfortably cold, especially if you're trying to catch a few zzz's. Make sure to bring a cozy shawl or jacket to cover up with while in the air, but don't bundle up too much or shedding layers for the TSA will be a real pain. Keep it warm but simple. Also, remember to wear socks; no one likes to tread barefoot in the security area.
Prepare for the Worst With a Charged Battery Pack and Headphones
Your nightmare has come true: there isn't one available outlet at your terminal, and your phone is already at 25 percent. Plus, there's a screaming baby waiting to get on the plane, and chances are, it'll be seated right next to you. Avoid falling into this trap by toting around a fully-charged battery pack and a trusty pair of noise-canceling headphones. You won't have to barter with someone for space at the airport charging station and you'll be able to tune out any loud noises during your flight without worrying about your battery. Hallelujah.
Have other recommendations for fellow BubbleLife travelers? Leave them in the comments!