This blog post was updated on August 16, 2021.
The busiest travel days of the year appropriately fall on the most inconvenient points on the calendar. The days leading up to Christmas and the days that follow Christmas are forever chaotic travel days, where the airports fill with the masses hoping to get home and the roads clog with families and friends leaving holiday parties. And while it might seem like you need a stiff drink and a whole lot of patience to make it out of a busy travel day, there are several simple things you can do to avoid disaster and catastrophe when it appears the whole world is heading back home from the holidays.
Check-In Early: One travel headache that you don’t need on a busy travel day is getting bumped from your oversold flight. To avoid getting the bump, be sure to check in for your flight as soon as you can. The online check-in process usually begins 24 hours before your flight departs. This ensures that you have a seat on the plane and run less of a risk for getting bumped. Those that don’t check-in or do so last are first on the airline’s list for bumping if the flight is overbooked.
Pack a Change of Clothes in Your Carry-On Bag: A family friend recently found himself stranded in Denver due to the weather in the Midwest while on a connecting flight from Los Angeles. Flights weren’t going out to his destination of Kansas City for three more days due to bad weather. He only had the shirt on his back. While many travelers pack a change of clothes in their carry-on bag on long haul flights, you should also be extra cautious on simple domestic flights around this busy time of the year. Travelers braving the crowds at airports on busy travel days should prepare for the worst situation. A change of clothes can make all the difference in a bad travel day and a tolerable travel day when your flight is canceled or delayed for days.
Hand Sanitize Your Heart Out: Busy travel days mean more travelers and more germs. The potential of getting sick on a busy travel day can be high. Last Christmas, I made the mistake of not religiously using hand sanitizer while going through the airport. I ended up with the flu by New Year’s Eve, which made for a very unexciting welcoming to 2012. While you can’t avoid every bad bug that comes your way, at the airport, gas station, train station and bus depot on such busy travel days, it is always a good idea to be mindful of what you touch. Avoid touching your mouth, eyes or face after you have touched those airport security bins or door handles. Hand sanitizer will help keep those germs at bay so that you don’t have to welcome 2013 as I did to 2012.
Take Your Time: If you are in a rush, a busy travel day will be even more terrible than it already is. Security lines are longer. There are more cars on the road. If you are running short on time, only bad results can occur from missed flights to accidents. If you plan for extra time to make it from A to B, you will not only be less stressed, but the miscues and hiccups in the road will be far less detrimental to your travel day. An hour wait at security when you have two hours to make your flight assists the traveler. However those that don’t plan for extra time almost always find themselves in a hurried rush to make planes and trains.
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