5 Tips to Make Holiday Travel Go Smoothly

The holidays are upon us, and people across the country are packing up and hitting the road to be with loved ones. My sisters and their families are both coming here, and it should be a fun (chaotic!) time with seven kids six and under running around. One sister is driving, which is relatively straightforward. Unfortunately one sister has to fly, and she asked me for some tips to make her holiday travel go smoothly.

During most of the year, there are enough frequent travelers to keep the airports moving smoothly. However, during the holidays the skies are filled with occasional travelers, some who travel only once a year or less. If, like my sister, you don’t fly often the procedures of airlines and airports can seem baffling and overwhelming. Here are a few tips to make it easier.

(If you have any of these infrequent fliers with you this holiday season feel free to print this off and hand it to them.)

  1. Check your flight status before you leave the airport. This time of year there are one million reasons for a potential delay–snowstorms, air traffic delays, and general overcrowding are just a few. You can go to your airline’s webpage, but many airline apps will send you flight status notifications.
  2. Get to the airport early. Normally this is not something I recommend, but during the holidays there is so much chaos! If it makes you feel calmer to have extra time then definitely arrive early.
  3. Have everything ready to go when you get to the security line. Make sure before you reach the front of the security line that you have your boarding pass and ID in your hand. Also, if you are traveling with a laptop have it at the top of your bag so it’s easy to take out. Finally, once you’re through the scanners grab all of your stuff and move out of the way to the nearby benches. All of these things will keep the line moving as quickly as possible. If you’re traveling with kids, check out the TSA’s guidelines ahead of time.  (And if you fly 2-3 times per year, consider signing up for TSA Pre-check!)
  4. Listen to the professionals. There are people at the airport who are there to help. When going through the security line the TSA officers will be giving you instructions. At the gate, the gate agent will tell you when to line up to board and what the boarding restrictions are. Once you’re on the plane the flight attendants will give you all kinds of instructions, including where to put your bags. Pay attention to these folks! The more everyone listens the more smoothly everything will go.
  5. Keep essentials in your carry-on if you check your bag. Things like glasses, medication, chargers, and keys should never go into your checked bags. It probably wouldn’t hurt to have a change of clothes in your carry-on too, in case your luggage is lost.

Bonus tip: Don’t wrap any gifts in your carry-on. If TSA needs to do additional screening of your bag they may require you to unwrap it.

Readers, do you have any tips to make holiday travel go smoothly?

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  1. I have flown 2-3 times per year with kids for the last 11 years. Here are my tips for flying with kids if you don’t do it often:
    1. If your kid is older than lap child and will have their own seat you can bring their carseat to use on the plane if it is FAA approved (check the stickers on the seat or users manual). It is WAY easier to keep a wiggly kid in their seat and out of the aisle for a couple hours with a 5-point harness.
    2. If you have to carry a carseat and multiple carry-on bags/personal items through the airport, it makes sense to bring your biggest stroller even if it’s heavy and clunky. You can pile everything on the stroller and have the kid(s) walk or be carried by non-stroller pushing parent. Strollers are free to gate check with most airlines (I think carseats too if it’s not FAA approved or baby is a lap child), so you won’t have to find space for it in an overhead compartment or worry about renting one at your destination.
    3. Put all the TSA 3-1-1 bags and tablets/laptops into one parent’s bag before you head to the airport. Digging through 4+ bags to pull each persons stuff is time consuming and holds up the security line. You can divide them back up among the kids’ bags once you get to your gate. Some airports are also making you take out all food items for security – so be prepared with all snacks in one bag too.
    4. With babies and toddlers, giving them something to suck on during take-off and landing may help calm them and help with ears popping. Breast, bottle, pacifier, sippy cup with straw…whatever. Older ones may like chewing gum or taffy to help with the ear popping.

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