Staying in the Holiday Spirit… Even At The Airport

With the holidays just around the corner, we’ve got helpful advice for keeping in the holiday spirit while braving the airports.

Book tickets and accommodations in advance. It’s no surprise that airlines and hotels get booked quickly during the busy holiday season, but also keep in mind that car rentals and transportation to and from the airport should be arranged ahead of time. Last minute travelers should be as flexible as possible and ask their travel agents to look into flying during non-peak hours or using a connecting flight or alternate airport.

Arrive at the airport early. Allow extra time for traffic. Remember, airport parking lots can fill up very quickly, so finding a spot can be difficult. Parking alternatives are available; there are some easy, cost-effective facilities with continual airport shuttles near the airport.  Airlines often oversell flights, so passengers who check in the latest are most likely to get bumped. Arrive at least 2 hours before your domestic flight, or 3 hours before your international flight, especially during peak travel days.

Passengers who get bumped have rights. In the event your flight is overbooked, the Department of Transportation (DOT) requires carriers to provide passengers with a written statement explaining their rights. These rights can include alternate travel arrangements and compensation if the new arrival time is more than one hour later than the originally scheduled time.

Know baggage limits since they can vary according to airline and aircraftBe sure to tag all carry-on and checked baggage and include your cell phone numberCarry on restrictions change often; check https://travel.state.gov/ for updated info.

Keep gifts unwrapped in case of an inspection.  Wrapped gifts will probably be opened, even in checked baggage.

Keep a constant watch of all belongings. Pickpockets love crowds. Travelers should always be mindful of their surroundings and keep a close watch on all their belongings, including tickets, watches and wallets.

Save time and stress:  Register for TSA PreCheck in order to access expedited domestic screening, as it greatly reduces the amount of time waiting in security lines, and eliminates the bother of removing your shoes, liquids, laptops and more. For foreign travel, registering for Global Entry provides expedited entry back into the U.S.  Apps are another useful way to minimize stress: download your airline’s app to easily access boarding passes, while also getting updated gate information and possibly entertainment options on board. 

Stay Safe.  Purchase travel insurance for the unexpected.  Check your credit card trip insurance carefully to see what it does and does not cover, especially for international travel.  Register overseas trips with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, a free U.S. Department of State program that informs the nearest U.S. Embassy of your whereabouts in case of an emergency. Also, check the State Department’s site for any travel warnings and advisories.

The bottom line: to ensure a safe trip, plan well in advance and ask your travel advisor about all your travel options.  They can provide expert information on alternate airports and accommodations that haven’t been booked. They know what places to avoid and how you can do so and still reach your destination.

About the Author: Sue Shimkus of Lake Zurich Travel & Cruise provides custom travel itineraries for the discerning traveler. To learn more, visit lztravel.comor call 847.438.5551.