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Holiday Airline Travel Tips

Holiday Airline Travel Tips for 2023

Joanna Teljeur
Written By Joanna Teljeur
8 minutes read
Last Updated:

If you’re like most people, you’re probably bracing yourself for the holiday travel season especially if you plan to fly. To add to this seasonal worry and stress, the Southwest Airlines meltdown of 2022 affecting 2 million people is still fresh in our minds.

Well, we can’t control the weather or flight disruptions, but you can take a few simple steps to make holiday flying less stressful. Afterall, you want to arrive in a calm, cheerful state of mind so you can enjoy the festivities with friends and family, right? Well, let’s get into a few essential travel hacks that will help you stay safe and sane during the holiday season.

Consider buying one-way tickets

While it might be more convenient to buy a round-trip ticket, you could actually save some money by purchasing one-way tickets. Not only can they be less expensive, but shopping for one-way fares from different airlines can offer more flexibility in flight times and connection options.

Ship your gifts ahead of time

Instead of trying to stuff all your presents into your checked and carry-on bags, why not ship them ahead of time? You can wrap your gifts and ship them so that they arrive at your final destination when you do. Shipping packages ahead of time is also a great way to avoid the hassle of having your gifts unwrapped during a security screening - a real possibility for checked and hand baggage alike.

If you ship your gifts, all you have to do is hand them out to your friends and family when you arrive. If you’re worried about the shipping costs, you can always compare the price of shipping services with the amount you have to pay to check an extra bag. You can also ship the gifts you receive on your return trip, avoiding the same issues when you go home.

Packing carryon bag

Pack for holiday season flight disruptions

No matter if you're traveling for the holidays or during other times of the year, entertainment will save the day if you have a delay or cancellation. So, you should remember to add the following to your hand baggage:

  • Chargers or a power bank
  • Cabin-friendly snacks
  • Your tablet
  • Music and other kinds of entertainment
  • Toiletry essentials
  • An empty water bottle
  • A change of clothing
  • Travel blanket and neck pillow

You never know if you’ll encounter a flight disruption, but at least you’ll be ready to ride it out if you do.

Plan for the unexpected

With the sheer volume of holiday travelers, try to take as many steps as possible to prepare for surprises like blizzards, accidents, and natural disasters. One way to prepare for the unexpected is to buy travel insurance which is easier and more affordable than you might realize.

  • You can start with this list of recommended budget travel insurance companies from Market Watch.
  • World Nomads also offers travel insurance packages that cover flight cancellation, baggage loss and damage, accidents, illness, and more.
  • And don’t forget to check with your credit cards! Many credit card companies offer travel insurance to card holders as part of their package.

If you’re planning to travel internationally, you might want to register your trip with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). Offered through The U.S. Department of State, the STEP program is free and gives U.S. travelers a way to register their trip with U.S. Embassies or Consulates. This will come in handy if there’s an emergency because the closest U.S. Embassy will know where to find you.

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Arrive at the airport early

This might seem like the oldest rule in the book, but seriously, if you’re flying over the holiday season, you’ll need to get to the airport early. In fact, you should add an extra hour to your airport arrival time because truly, you’ll need it especially if you’re flying out of a busy airport.

Generally, if you're flying domestically, arrive 2 hours early, and if you’re taking an international flight, show up 3 hours ahead of your departure time.

Prepare for security screening

One of the most stressful parts of holiday travel is the security screening process, especially during peak travel times. No one enjoys waiting in the security lines, but there are some way you can avoid the hassle:

  • Research TSA wait times so you can figure out exactly how early you need to arrive at the airport. The free My TSA app is worth downloading because not only can you check TSA wait times, but it also gives you updates about airport delays.
  • Another way to make this part of your journey less stressful is to apply for TSA PreCheck. If you pass the background check and pay the fee of $78, you can access the dedicated PreCheck lane which tends to be much faster.
  • Another express entry program is CLEAR, which uses biometrics to make the TSA screening process easier and less time consuming because it allows you to jump to the front of the line.
  • If you’re planning to fly internationally, you could benefit from programs like Global Entry. If you’re approved, it will help you get through the U.S. Customs more quickly and without much fuss.

TSA security screening

Travel light

To avoid the chaos of losing your checked baggage, try to pack everything into a small carry-on bag. But make sure you check and double check your airline’s maximum dimensions for cabin luggage, and make sure your items will fit within these allowances.

If you buy a special carry-on bag that claims to fit most airline’s hand luggage dimensions, remember not to pack it so full that it’s bulging at the seams. If it is, then you’ll struggle to fit it into an overhead bin, and it will have to go into the hold luggage.

Watch for delays and cancellations

One of the best ways to keep track of flight during the holiday season is to download your airline’s app. Airline apps give you real-time updates on delays, cancellations, gate changes, and other important updates about your flight.

But with the holiday crowds and unpredictable winter weather, you might want to start watching for delays and cancellations a day or two ahead of your flight.

One particularly helpful way to do this is via the site Flight Aware which tracks the flight delays and cancellations by airline, airport origin, and destination. It also allows you to access 6 days of flight data so you can see any developing trends that might affect your flight.

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Contact your airline on social

So, if you do have an issue with delays or cancellations or anything else that would require you to contact the airline directly, try sending them a direct message on Twitter/X or other platforms like Facebook. It might not work with every airline or situation, but it’s worth trying. If someone responds to your message, you might be able to get your problem solved in just a few minutes. At very least, you’ll be able to talk to someone about your issue.

Scope out the airport

What do you do if your flight is canceled or delayed, and you're faced with a super-long layover until your next flight? Hotels might be booked up because of the holidays, and you might have to camp out at the airport overnight.

You can try to make the most of this un-fun situation by scouting out your airport ahead of time! The site Sleeping In Airports provides plenty of information on how to find as much comfort and enjoyment in airports around the globe. You can find details about:

  • Lounges
  • Sleep pods
  • Sleep rooms
  • Where to find food and drinks
  • Where you can store your bags
  • Airport shower facilities

Hopefully, you won’t be stuck in the airport overnight, but if you are, you’ll be able to get through it as comfortably as possible.

Be patient and kind

In some ways, this might be the most important tip of all because let’s face it, we’re all stressed, and peak travel days at the airport can make it a harrowing experience for even the most seasoned traveler.

Also, you never know what the people around you are dealing with. Someone might be visiting an aging parent for the last time or maybe this is their first holiday alone. So, try to be patient and kind to your fellow passengers.

Also, remember to extend the same common courtesy to airline and airport staff. If your flight has been disrupted, remember that the agent at the gate isn’t responsible for the problem. They’re actually trying to be helpful and doing their best to accommodate you. As the saying goes, you’ll get more bees with honey than vinegar.

Know Your Rights

And lastly, learn about your rights. Each airline might have their own policies, but as an air passenger you have certain rights whether you’re flying in the U.S. or Europe, and they cover everything from flight delays and cancellations to lost and damaged baggage.

So, if you have any flight disruptions during your holiday travels, remember that you have a right to compensation. More importantly, here at AirAdvisor, we can help you file your claim so you can get what you’re owed!

We’ve been helping passengers for the past 6 years and we have a 98% success rate! Check below to see if your flight is eligible.Check compensation

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