The busy holiday season is quickly approaching and before we know it, we will be off traveling around the country and perhaps around the world – to reunite with our family and friends and celebrate the holidays and new year season. Whether you’re traveling domestically or internationally, this upcoming holiday season is going to be one of the busiest ever in terms of travel and people moving around – that’s because after the past two-and-a-half years, people are longing to get back out there and not only rediscover the world, but also reconnect with loved ones after being separated for such a long time.
Anyone planning and booking flights for the upcoming holiday season has noticed that prices are sky high for all things travel – flights, hotels, cars, etc. everything is expensive. Revenue flight prices are through the roof and award availability is severely lacking – if you searched for award flights for the upcoming few weeks, you probably were returned with either no availability or the price of a flight in miles was insanely expensive. Sadly that’s the case right now, after a record-breaking summer, it seems like we are in for record-breaking winter. Thankfully, there are ways you can easily improve and elevate your travel experience and avoid (some of) the crowds as you move from point A to point B.
Check-in Online & Don’t Check Bags
Naturally, you should always check-in for your flight online and avoid going to the counter at the airport if you’re traveling with only a carry-on bag. This especially applies during the holiday season, while I know it might be impossible to not check in a bag during these times as you might be taking with you more than normal (Christmas presents, etc.) if you check-in online and have a mobile boarding pass, you can proceed to the quick bag drop-off points at the check-in counters and save time since you’ll already have a boarding pass.
Remember that if you have elite status with the airline you’re flying (or with one of their partners) or you’re flying in the premium cabin, you have access to Priority Check-in, which can save you sometimes over an hour. Airlines do also sell Priority Services – like Priority Check-in, Security, Boarding, etc. so if you’re flying Economy and checking in bags during a peak period, it might make sense to buy these ancillary services.
Speed Through Security
If you have elite status or are flying in a premium cabin, you already have access to the Priority Security Fast Lane at select airports – this alone can save you a ton of time, especially if you are flying during one of the upcoming peak travel days. If you haven’t yet enrolled in TSA Pre-Check and fly frequently, this is a no-brainer. TSA Pre-Check has saved me hundreds of hours over the years and is truly a blessing – being able to leave your shoes on, liquids and laptops in your bag, and speed through security in under 3-5 minutes is the greatest thing ever. Many premium travel credit cards reimburse you for the TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry application fees, so you could be paying $0 for this amazing benefit.
Another relatively new feature airports around the country have been implementing is a process whereby you can sign up for a selected time-slot during which you’ll go through security without waiting. Not all airports are offering this, so be sure to check with your origination airport. The way it works is simple – you tell the airport when and at what time you will be going through security and they will hold your spot and there’s usually a dedicated security checkpoint. You do have to show up at the time you reserved and if you miss your spot, you’re probably out of luck and have to go to the regular lane.
Escape the Madness at Lounges
Lounges at an airport are sanctuaries – being able to escape the crowds and relax before your flight while enjoying a nice meal and a glass of wine is my absolute favorite pre-flight ritual. Even if you aren’t flying First/Business Class or don’t hold airline Elite Status, there are still a number of ways to access airport lounges – either through a premium travel credit card, by buying a day-pass, or even subscribing to a lounge membership program.
Airports usually have several lounges and therefore you might find yourself lounge-hopping until you find the perfect one where you’re able to truly unwind and take a moment to yourself before boarding – just make sure to keep track of time, as it can quickly slip away when you’re having so much fun at an airport.
Priority Boarding and Seating
Priority Boarding allows you to board the plane ahead of Economy Class passengers, find your seat quicker, and most importantly, find space for your carry-on. Flights will be full and even overbooked this upcoming holiday travel season, so you definitely want to make sure your carry-on bag doesn’t get gate-checked. While you can board quickly, once you land at your destination, the only way you can leave the plane quickly is if you have a seat as close to the front as possible. When flying on peak dates, you might want to upgrade to a seat in the preferred zone of the cabin or even an extra-legroom seat, which might allow you to leave the plane quicker at your destination. If you’ve checked bags, this won’t matter as much since you will still most likely have to wait at baggage claim until the bags start arriving.
Add Extra Time and Relax this Holiday Season
During travel times like these, it is important to give yourself plenty of extra time – even if you’ve taken everything into account, you never know what surprises the holiday travel season can bring – add extra time to your journey and then once you make it to your gate, use that time to relax and take in the special moment that we are once again able to jet around the world and reunite with loved ones, something that has truly been missed.
Lastly, remember that everyone is traveling and wants to get to their destination as quickly as possible and while airlines are doing everything they can to keep passengers moving, there will be irregular operations – flight delays, cancellations, etc. will happen. During these events, have patience and don’t stress as there is likely not much you will achieve through worry. Delays and cancellations often happen during the winter – we just can’t control the weather.
All in All
Everyone’s excited to travel again and just like this past summer, the winter is going to be a busy one. Airports and flights are at or even over capacity due to the increased demand – some airlines are still adding more flights and airports are expanding, but that will take some time. These tips above can help improve and elevate your travels during these times, so be sure you’re well prepared for your upcoming trip. It is finally the time to see and explore the world again.