Holiday Air Travel Tips

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It’s beginning to look a lot like … holiday travel season. I both look forward to holiday traveling and dread it. I want to see my family and friends, but I don’t want to face the hassles of traveling. Fortunately, after many, many holiday trips by air, I’ve learned to make our travel simpler and less stressful with these 17 holiday air travel tips.  Planing and a bit of organizing will make your holiday air travel much easier and easier means less stress and less stress means a happier travel experience. I’ve traveled overseas with a 50 pound dog by myself. I’ve traveled overseas with a two-year old and I was 6 months pregnant. I’ve traveled overseas with two children under the age of 3 by myself. With just a few (ten thousand) miles of travel experience, I’ve figured out tips that work for my family and make travel by air easier and less stressful. 

overhead view of wrapped Christmas gift, pink envelope with air tickets peaking out on top of black suitcase

Holiday Air Travel Tips

overhead view of cloths and plastic bags neatly placed in open suitcase
overhead view of black and white striped shirt with dog gift tag on top of Christmas themed box next to puzzle with robots with red Christmas themed gift tag and wrapping paper
overhead view of pink envelope with airline tickets sticking out and cell phone with O'Hare airport website
overhead view of wrapped Christmas gift, pink envelope with air tickets peaking out on top of black suitcase

Plan your clothing. Think about the outfits you’ll need for your trip. Plan outfits that will require the fewest pairs of shoes (because shoes take up more room and weigh more). Plan outfits with layers that coordinate across several outfits.  Fold complete outfits together into clothing packets. Include undergarments, socks, tops, bottoms and any other items required for each outfit. Packing clothes in clothing packets makes it easy to arrange the clothes in the order that you’ll wear them. You can easily see all your outfits when you file each clothing packet and this makes it easy to remove the one you want. Pack shoes in cloth or plastic shoe bags. This keeps your clothing clean when packed into a small suitcase with your shoes. You can make your own travel shoe bags.  Wear your heaviest items. This is often the difference between taking the larger or the smaller suitcase. It will also reduce the weight of your suitcase. Wear your biggest or heaviest shoes rather than pack them. Wear your heaviest coat, sweater, etc.  Bring extra zippered bags. I bring extra zippered bags in my suitcase and carry-on. They’re useful for packing unexpectedly wet or dirty items. They’re also helpful for bringing gifts back home with you that might spill or break.  Don’t wrap any gifts you’re taking with you. If you’re traveling over the holidays, you’ll probably need to pack gifts. You never know when your bags will be inspected. Don’t wrap your gifts in case security needs to exam the gift items. I pack my gifts with gift boxes, gift bags, tissue paper, ribbon and gift tags so that I can easily wrap each gift once I arrive at my destination.      Check the TSA website for travel tips. The rules and guidelines are often changed. Take a minute to review the TSA website travel tips to check the current requirements before you pack your bags and before you leave for the airport. You don’t want to arrive at the airport to find out that you’ll have to throw away something that you packed. Bring a locking suitcase. You can purchase a locking suitcase or buy a small combination lock that can be added to existing suitcases. A locking suitcase allows you to secure valuables in when necessary once you arrive at your destination. Organize all travel documents in a document folder or envelop in your bag. This makes it easy to locate your necessary documents at each step during your travel process (and all while you’re trying to take your belt off, shoes off, bag of toiletries out of your carry-on and not drop your laptop). I always carry all boarding passes and identification for my children (until they’re about 17 years old or extremely responsible). I pass each item out as it’s needed and collect them as soon as we’re through security. I don’t want lost documents to impact our travel. (As a young lieutenant I traveled overseas with another military member for a training session. That military member was 20 years older than myself. He lost his ticket en-route and I saw the impact that had on his travel. Fortunately I had my travel documents and was able to continue my travel with no problem). Make copies of your key identification documents and keep them safely separate from the originals. Make copies of IDs, passports and any other key documents in case the originals are lost or stolen. Keep these copies in a separate, but safe location. Often my husband and I will carry each other’s copies.  Do not leave the original documents or copies unattended.    Carry money and credit cards in several different locations. Don’t carry all your cash and credit cards in one wallet. Divide them into several groups and carry them safely in different locations. Never leave cash or credit cards unattended. Bring frequent flyer numbers and travel rewards credit cards. Make sure you have the information you need to earn rewards while you’re enjoying your trip.   Download helpful apps. Check out the latest travel and weather apps for up-to-date useful information. Knowledge is preparation and power and knowledge reduces stress when you’re traveling.    Pack snacks and an empty water bottle in your carry-on. You can fill the water bottle once you’re through security from a water fountain. Packing your own snacks and drink will save you money and allow you to eat or drink when you want to not just when drink and food service is available. Pack multipurpose toys that will keep your children occupied. When my children were younger, I had a bag of travel-only toys. These toys were “new” to my children each time we traveled and I carefully chose each toy to be multipurpose. For example, stacking cups can be stacked, sorted by color, you can put items in them (over and over and over again), you can roll them, use them for imaginative play and more. Be careful to choose toys that don’t easily roll 20 rows behind you underneath the old grump guy’s feet when dropped (ask me how I learned this one). Arrive at the airport early and expect to wait. With today’s security threat and increased numbers of travelers, be prepared to wait. Being late and rushing only adds stress and opportunities for problems. Arrive early and be prepared to wait. Don’t be upset about it, just plan ahead. Focus on the reason for your travel not the hassles of traveling. You may experience some difficulty while traveling. Focus on the reason for your travel and not on the difficulty. Traveling can be difficult if you let it be. Why not turn it into an adventure?   Start saving now for your next trip even before you’ve left for this holiday trip. Traveling should be an adventure. Planning and organization can make your air travel easier and less stressful. What holiday air travel tips have you found useful in your travels?  

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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  1. These are all great tips for those of us flying during the holidays. I think it’s especially important to check TSA’s tips since they are constantly changing what the rules are to keep our skies friendly and safe.

  2. These are all such great tips. One tip that I use when traveling during the holidays is to ship my gifts ahead of me. One year, I packed them all and my luggage was stolen at the curbside check in. My family had no gifts from me that year.

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