Heading to Grandma’s this holiday season or taking the family on a much-needed vacation? Travel analysts say this 2012 holiday travel season is gearing up to be the busiest in nearly a decade. Traveling over the holidays is already notoriously busy, expensive and stressful, but there are still deals to be found, provided you shop carefully and plan ahead. Looking for a last-minute getaway, check out our many promotional vacations to a wide variety of destinations with free accommodations by calling 1-800-656-2780, and you just may find what you want under the tree this year, along with your Best Vacation Ever! But if you’re getting ready to travel this holiday season, take a deep breath and heed some of these top tips to help reduce the stresses of holiday traveling:
- AVOID PEAK TRAVEL PERIODS: The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the critical
outbound day for many people, which means major crowds, possible delays, long lines and stressed out travelers. Many people make a week out of it and leave earlier to avoid traveling on such a busy days. Traveling on Thanksgiving Day is usually a breeze and more affordable. Thanksgiving may be this week, but all hope is not lost on a last-minute getaway. Vendors often throw out cut-rate airfare deals on Thanksgiving Day. If you have a bag packed and are ready to go at a moment’s notice, you could find a slashed rate on Thursday, the actual holiday, and still make it in time for turkey. If you’re looking for a last-minute getaway, you can also call us at 1-800-656-2780 to inquire about available promotional vacations and getaways with free accommodations. On the return flight, the Friday after Thanksgiving, isn’t bad at all since most people stay the long weekend. But it gets busier and busier with each successive day, and more difficult and more expensive through Sunday evening. The bottom line is if you’re looking for a cheap airfare deal, you won’t find one on the peak travel days, but you might on the actual holiday. NOTE: This year’s peak travel dates include November 21, November 25, December 22, December 23, December 26, and January 2. You have to book well in advance for the holidays, unless you and your family schedule are flexible enough to fly on the actual holiday when bargain rates to fill planes are thrown out there. You can also bet that the airlines will tack on surcharges accordingly. Don’t be fooled by the cheap-sounding airfare; find out what surcharges and baggage fees they have to make up the loss. The best time to get the best rates is: during off-peak dates. When booking your flights, make sure there is sufficient time during layovers, and build in some time for flight delays and weather woes, which can be can be a major culprit of delays and cancellations during the winter season. Christmas and New Year’s Day both fall on Tuesdays this year, so the weekend of December 22-23 and the day after each holiday will be quite busy. A lot of smart families use their kids’ whole two-week winter break from school to travel on a family vacation so they avoid several peak travel days and have a long, fun, less stressful and more affordable family holiday vacation. According to abc.com, the number of plane tickets bought for the 2012 Christmas/New Year’s travel season has already doubled what it was last year, despite rising costs. Buy now, because the costs rise with each passing week, and a $70 hike could mean a $280 jump in travel expenses for a family of four. Also take the time to look into smaller airports rather than busy hubs to save money and look into discounted airlines like JetBlue—a popular, reliable favorite.
- GET ALERTS: All carriers have websites, many with web alerts and mobile apps for constant news updates about your travel plans. Sign up to receive flight and carrier alerts sent right to your mobile devices, so you know well in advance of any delays or cancellations. It may save you an unnecessary or early trip to the airport.
- BOOK TRANSPORTATION EARLY: The early bird gets the worm when it comes to
transportation around the holidays, as well as airfare. When you book your airfare, also book any transportation you may need, like a rental car. With more people than usual traveling at such peak times, agencies run out of cars, too. I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of movies where someone is trying to get a car home for the holidays and the agencies are all booked up and four strangers end up in one tiny car driving across the nation. It’s not just for dramatic effect; it happens a lot since the agencies have a limited inventory as well. NOTE:We have a preferred partnership that includes additional discounts with Alamo! Book your rental car early to ensure it’s more affordable, you get the model you want and need, and it’s ready and waiting for you at your destination—of course, have your rental confirmation in hand.
- BYPASS EXTRA LUGGAGE FEES: Bag fees are now becoming the biggest source of headache and hardest hit on the wallet. First of all, there’s a lot to be said for less is more—that means wise choices when packing and investing in lighter-weight luggage so you get the extra pounds inside. Pack light but pack well by checking your destination weather channel for the week’s forecasts and bringing only what you will truly need for the amount of days you will be gone. Know your carrier’s policies for luggage, weights and surcharges before you even book, let alone pack, so there are no extra financial surprises at the airport or denials. If it is too heavy, some carriers may require you to purchase another bag, which can be pretty expensive at airport retailers and cost you major amounts of time. Obviously if you’re going up North, winter garb is heavier than summer attire. To avoid the heavy weight in your luggage, think layers and wear your big winter coat on the plane, even if it’s a sunny 90 degrees in Florida when you depart.You’ll save room in your luggage, you’ll need it when you get there, and it makes a great blanket or pillow on cold
airplanes. Also look for airlines that don’t charge for carry-ons now, and use a scale to measure your baggage before you get to the airport so you aren’t hit with unexpected fees. Either ship back your holiday gifts to your home, buy an extra suitcase at any outlet or discount retailer or leave room in your suitcase for any extra items without tipping the scales.
- GET THERE EARLY: The holidays all but guarantee longer lines, heavy crowds, unfortunate delays, stressed out fliers and under-staffed workers. Get to the airport early; it pays off in reduced stress, even though others around you might be pulling their hair out. Just close your eyes and enjoy the time you have to get through all the processes as easily and painlessly as possible, then read a magazine or a good snack as you wait at the gate for your flight to board.
- AVOID AIRPORT PARKING LOTS: At peak time, the airport parking lots fill up quickly and you’ll waste too much time rounding the curves and driving the aisles looking for a spot to open up. It’s best to get a friend to give you all a ride and a pickup, book an airport shuttle from your home, or park in airport shuttle lots, but still get there earlier than usual because they fill up quickly, too. Consider the slight possibility of a lighter staff around the holiday and fewer shuttles running.
- CHECK AIRPORT WEATHER: Don’t assume things will always go as planned. Be sure to check your all your airport websites for alerts of winter weather affecting your travel plans, especially if you’re up North where snow can be a problem for traffic and lane closures—and let’s not say it, airport closures. As mentioned above, also make sure that weather delays won’t affect your layover and connecting flight plans. I know it’s great to have shorter layovers, but if your plane is delayed or weather affected, you could miss that connection altogether if you don’t build in enough time between connecting flights.
- GET THERE EARLY: Earlier than usual! The airports will be crowded and busy, with half the staffers looking frazzled and barking orders to keep people moving. Getting a family of four through security, along with thousands of others fliers can be a daunting task. Each step of the procedure takes twice, sometimes three times as long. Minimize some of the hassle by printing your boarding passes online and getting there early, so you have more time to check bags and get through security. Make sure you know your airport’s security policies before even trying to bring items through that may be considered inappropriate or the wrong size. Every little thing holds up the lines.
- DON’T FLY DRUNK: Holiday festivities typically involve a lot of spirits, but even the slightest inebriated behavior in the air and at the airports are taken very seriously and not tolerate these days. Flying drunk in a pitching, bumping, crowded plane is bad enough and bound to have you leaving part of your lunch in any part of the plane if not your own lap. Don’t make the news by getting tasered for drunken outbursts, taken down by passengers in the aisle or denied boarding or escorted from the plane by police—talk about moments to make Mom so proud!
- SKIP THE CROWDS: If you are one who doesn’t like crowds, long lines or crowded planes, the holidays may not your best time to travel by plane. Consider driving, either your own
car or rental car (Call us at 1-800-656-2780 and ask about our preferred partnership and discounts with Alamo), or even taking a train trip this year. But if your schedule is flexible, you can find some of the best airfare bargains ON the actual holiday, and travel ON the actual holiday is not bad at all. But if holiday travel really isn’t your thing, consider a Staycation at a local or neighboring hotel by calling 1-800-656-2780. That way you get he benefits of a holiday getaway without all the hassles. Or you can always stay home curled up with a nice cup of cocoa or your favorite beverage, and start looking into future affordable family vacations, like ours to a variety of destinations with free lodging that saves you hundreds of dollars off your travel expenses, and eliminate the headaches, hassles and crowds of holiday travel. You just may find your Best Vacation Ever and save loads of money by calling us today at 1-800-656-2780.
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