The holidays are coming and that means braving the crowds and being ready for all the extra headaches that come along with it, including delayed and even cancelled flights. Soon you’ll join the millions of people traveling to visit friends and family or, if you’re lucky, going on a winter getaway. I definitely approve of those, because the holidays can be stressful and getting away from everything is always nice and relaxing.
The airport during the holidays is a madhouse and security lines can be longer than usual, so let’s talk about how to get through them with as little annoyance as possible (at least when it comes to yourself). This year will see a lot more delayed and cancelled flights due to pilot and crew shortages.
Sign up for TSA PreCheck
You probably have time to apply for PreCheck and get approved before the holidays, since the government has restarted processing applications. For $85, you get 5 years of bypassing the main security lines and going through a much shorter line with less strict rules. You can keep your jacket, hat, belt and shoes on and your laptop and toiletries can stay in your bag. When we were up for renewal, we decided to upgrade to Global Entry, which works internationally and also includes domestic PreCheck for just $100. We used it on our trip back from France and we were able to use the Global Entry monitors and skipped the long customs line and ended up going straight to an agent while everyone else was waiting. Both of these require you to go through a Federal background check for approval.
Get There Early
Longer lines mean longer wait times and the holidays means more traffic. Don’t cut it too close to get to the airport. Give yourself at least two hours before your flight if it’s domestic and three if its international at the airport. Accidents happen, extra long lines happen, computer glitches happen. Just be prepared. Bring a book or magazine to keep you occupied if you end up having a long wait at the gate…or go check out your airport’s art or do some gift shopping.
Fly With Just a Carry-On
I’ve been flying with just a carry-on for a decade now. I’ve gotten my packing down to almost just the bare essentials, since I now know what will get worn and what won’t. The trick to packing small in the winter is layering and not caring if all your pictures are you wearing the same coat and scarf (maybe two). Here’s a post I did on packing light in the winter
Don’t Wrap Any Gifts
If you are visiting friends and family and haven’t shipped your presents ahead (which I highly recommend), don’t wrap them and stash them in your carry-on. TSA may very well want to inspect them and will not be sorry for you if they have to unwrap them. So, I suggest packing small gifts and saving the wrapping for when you arrive. This takes up much less room too.
Most people get to the security lines and head right to go through the x-ray machines. This makes these lines longer. Instead, go left if given a choice. These lines are shorter, making them a bit faster. Try skipping any lines with small kids, because they usually take longer.
Keep a Zip-Top Bag On Hand
Always have a bunch of things in your pockets? If you don’t have an empty accessible pocket on your bag, have a plastic bag with you and then empty your pockets into it, so it doesn’t get lost in the bottom of your bag or you don’t have to stand at the end of the conveyor picking everything out of one of those little round bins to load your pockets back up.
Have Your Liquids Bag and Laptop Easily Accessible
This is super annoying. All your liquids need to fit in a one quart see through bag in 3.4oz or less containers. Have this out and ready to toss in the security bin along with your shoes and laptop. When you’re holding of the line rummaging for things that you knew you needed to have out, everyone gets that much more irritated and grumpy. You saw the signs. Don’t pretend you didn’t.
Wear Slip-On Shoes
Having to tie and untie your shoes to get through security is just another hassle you don’t need. Pack those in your bag and wear some easy on easy off shoes. You will thank me. Anything that’s hassle-free is nice, and can get you on your trip faster.
Don’t Wear Any Accessories
If you can get away with it, skip the jewelry and watch and belt. Those are just more things you’ll need to take off to put through the scanners and nobody wants to wait behind you while you’re spending an extra five minutes de- and re-accessorizing.
Download Your Airline’s App
Carry one less thing. You’re already walking around with your phone, so download your airline’s app so you can easily check in, get updates and have your boarding pass on hand instead of stuffing it into your pocket or a book and then having a small panic attack when you can’t find it. You can have everyone’s boarding pass in your party on your app. Another brilliant tip: screenshot your boarding passes in case your app logs you out or the airport has shoddy WiFi right before you need to show it to someone. This has totally happened to me more than once. Never again!
Don’t be that person who gets all irritated when things don’t go your way. Everyone’s trying their best, the airline employees are already dealing with dozens of jerky people everyday. Don’t make their life harder. Just close your eyes and breathe before you start yelling. Find your chill. Ask if it’s really that important. Everyone’s having a hard time, but they’re dealing with it. Lots of things can’t be helped, so you being grouchy and mean isn’t going to change anything.
The holidays are supposed to be a happy time. Smile, even when you don’t want to, think of the awesome trip you’re about to go one, play games with your travel buddies and think of this as just another part of your adventure.
With Covid still hanging around, make sure you’re staying safe, because having to quarantine from everyone in the middle of a trip due to sickness isn’t going to be fun at all. We still wear our masks on planes, in the airport, and crowded indoor and outdoor spaces (ex.: we wear them in grocery stores and while waiting in line at amusement parks.)
Aside from voluntary (but I think still necessary) masks, make sure to bring hand sanitizer, anti-bacterial wipes, and a few Covid self-tests for each person in your party. If you’re trying to make your flight more comfortable, a short list of must-haves is:
With a little pre-planning, you can make holiday travel as comfortable and stress-free as possible. Stats say that 60% of Americans won’t be traveling at all for the holidays, because of both the high cost of flights and rental cars and Covid. So, while there may be fewer people on the road, there may be more people at the airport due to flight delays and safety protocols.
Where will you be going for the holidays?
Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links and I may be financially compensated if you make a purchase through one of the links. This allows me to keep this blog running, so thank you in advance.
Want to read more tips for traveling worldwide on a budget? Check out my blog at Shereen Travels Cheap or find me on Facebook or Twitter. You’ll also find product and website suggestions, packing tips, current deals and a whole lot more to help you travel better for less!
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