The No Nonsense Guide to Holiday Travel

The holiday season is the most wonderful time of the year. It’s also one of the busiest. People from all over the world are driving and flying to visit and be with family and friends. It’s estimated that between 40-50 million Americans will be traveling for the holidays this year. That means more cars on the road, busier airports and more chances for mishaps to happen. Holiday travel doesn’t have to be a headache. In fact, with these tips you can get through the season and all the travel it comes with completely stress free.

 Air Travel 

Be strategic about WHEN and WHERE you fly

Flights leaving early in the morning are always always always less likely to be delayed. Getting up at 4am to catch a flight may sound brutal at the time, but getting to where you’re going without delays or problems will be something to celebrate.

If you’re flying into a big city check the rates for smaller airports close to that city. You may be able to score a deal and save yourself the headache of navigating a big airport like O’hare in Chicago, or JFK in New York.

No non-sense Guide to Holiday Travel

Be an early-bird

If there was ever a time to be ridiculously early for a flight, the holiday season is the time. It’s estimated that 48.6 million Americans will fly this holiday season. Airports will be busy and the people working at the airports will be stressed. Do not be that person who rolls up to the airport 1 hour before your flight and then is super upset when security lines and such are extremely long. Get there early, get through security and then reward yourself with a cocktail at the airport bar.

Download your airline’s app and/or sign up for text alerts

This really is a game-changer and a life saver. The best way to stay up to date on any changes with your flight is to download your airline’s app. This is useful for a lot of reasons but my favorite thing is being able to have my flight itinerary right at my fight tips instead of having to scroll through my e-mail and pull up my flight confirmation number and details. I am also a big fan of text alerts. I flew to Florida a few weeks ago and got a text alert saying my flight was going to be delayed before it was even posted at the airport. Talk about being in the know!

No Non-Sense Guide to Holiday Travel

Check-in online

You should get an e-mail 24 hours before your flight takes off saying that you can check-in. You can also access your boarding pass right on your phone, which means you can skip stopping at the kiosk at the airport and go right to security. This is perfect for me because I am the worst at keeping a handle on my boarding passes. something about it being a little flimsy piece of paper that makes me always misplace it. With your boarding pass on your phone that is completely taken care of. I’m a millennial, clearly I’ll always know where my phone is, right?

Pack light

I don’t even remember the last time I checked a bag at the airport. After spending several hours at an airport and then on a crowded plane being able to bypass the luggage claim carousel will feel like a blessing from on high. Plus, as we learned above, this is a likely time of the year for flight delays. Flight delays or flight changes nearly double your chance of having your checked luggage lost or sent to the destination.

Ship your gifts or go the gift card route 

Don’t be a hero and fly with all your gifts. It is truly not worth the hassle and the worry that a gift may be broken or ruined on arrival. Arrange to have your gifts shipped to where you’re going ahead of time OR, even better, go the gift card route this year for gifts. Who doesn’t love a gift card!? I would not mind one of these or one of these as my christmas gift!

Get social – social media that is 

If you run into a problem with an airline at or the airport, save yourself the headache (and the automated recordings) and get on social media. Tweet your airline and tell them your problem or ask for help. It is crazy how fast companies/airlines will respond to a problem when it’s out there for the whole world to see. I have done this several times and I always get help/answers super fast.

Stranded? book yourself a room.

No matter how well you prepare and pack, weather is unpredictable and flights will get delayed. This is just a fact of life. If you find yourself with a cancelled or delayed flight don’t settle for the airport floor. Nothing will put you in a worse mood the next day then a horrible nights sleep or a kink in your neck from awkwardly using your carry-on as a pillow. Book yourself a room, get a good night sleep and get up and at ’em again tomorrow!

No Non-Sense Guide to Holiday Travel.

Car Travel 

Make sure your car is mechanically sound

Get your oil changed and make sure your windshield wiper fluid is full. If your car has any preexisting conditions (like the heat not working, or the tires being worn) get it taken care of before you head out on the road. You never know when something could go wrong and you won’t want to be dealing with it on Christmas morning on the way to Grandma’s house.

Fill up with gas the night before you leave

After getting everyone and all of their luggage packed up into the car and ready to go, how brutal will it be to see the “check gas” light on in your car before your trip even gets started? Filling up the night before means there’s one less thing to worry about the day you leave.

Pack your car efficiently  

I have to admit I’m not always the best at this one, but I am improving! Keep everything you could possibly need during the trip at a close reach. Keep suitcases and things you won’t need until you arrive tucked furthest away in the back. Nothing is more annoying to me than when I need something, but it’s allllll the way in the back of the car tucked under a heap of other luggage.

Holiday Travel

Keep your appetite in check

The hangry struggle is real (at least with me it is). Pack snacks and beverages and keep them at close reach (see point above) to keep yourself from getting hangry during the drive. I always pack my own refillable water bottle during road trips and refill it at gas stations. Which brings us to my next point…

Plan your stops & do double duty

I have to give my fiancé the credit for this one because he is all about planning our pit-stops in advance. If you’re stoping every 2 hours for random reasons your trip is going to drag on and on. When you stop for gas, always use the bathroom (even if you don’t have to) and grab any snacks you may need. This saves you the hassle of stopping again in 2 hours because you have to use the bathroom.

Bring entertainment 

You guys, this is huge! The biggest complaint people have about road trips is that they’re boring. I hear you and I completely agree! You can only listen to the radio for so long before you start hearing the same songs over and over and over again. Come prepared with different activities to do. I am a huge fan of audible during car rides. I 100% recommend this book on Audible. Read my review and you’ll find out why!

Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks

If not everyone in the car is keen to listen to a book, pack your kindle or a regular ole book or magazine. Last but not least, stock your iPad with shows or movies to watch.

Get cozy

If I’m spending more than 4 hours in a car I always bring a blanket and a pillow. When you’ve done everything you can to make the trip more enjoyable and your still struggling a nap is just what you need to relax and make the time go by faster. I just got this blanket as a gift and it is the softest most amazing thing that has ever touched my body.

The holidays are the best time of year, But it's also a time full of stress! If you're one of 50 million Americans traveling this holiday season, you know what I'm talking about. This is your Fool-Proof, No-Nonsese Guide to Holiday Travel!

Are you traveling for the holidays? What’s you best tip for Holiday Travel?!

Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. 

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  • Megan Miller

    So detailed, so helpful. Another awesome post!!

    • Thanks, Meg!! I hope you’re enjoying Cali! Tell Franklin i miss him!

  • Yep to the Audible for car rides tip…and podcasts!

    • I haven’t really gotten into Podcasts, but i listened to one with my sister recently on a road trip with her and i was impressed by how much i liked it! I think that’s going to be my new thing this coming year!

  • 1000 times yes to packing in only a carryon! It seriously saves so much time, especially with all of the thousands upon thousands of people that will be traveling during this time of the year! I know that we need to be better about packing snacks when we drive because we’re always stopping for bad for us snacks on our road trips.

    • haha I have to admit, one of my favorite things about trips is getting bad for me snacks! lol. i love all the candy and just use the trip as an excuse to go ham!

  • Great list! We actually planned and booked our vacation already in August and when I look at the flights that are still available now, I’m so glad I did that. The prices are insane now!!

    • woot woot! three cheers for planning ahead! it definitely takes some work initially but it’s always worth it. IMO at least.

  • These are great tips. We decided three years ago that we weren’t going to travel during the holidays anymore. Traveling with kids can be stressful enough and during the holidays it’s even more so. We love taking our kids on trips- either flying or in the car- but we prefer being home for the holidays. #wanderfulwednesday

    • I completely agree and can see why you’d prefer to do that. We have two fur children and even just traveling with them for the holidays is tough work, so i can imagine human kids are twice as tough!

  • Definitely agree with all of these! Audible is a life saver, it just makes the time fly. Also definitely agree with doing as much as possible in advance and avoiding the crowds wherever possible – if not, anticipating them. People get so stressed around this time of year, which is strange as it’s supposed to be a happy time…

    • ugh i know right?! i just never understand when i see people getting really grouchy during the holidays. like come on man! it’s time for peace on earth and good will towards all men!

  • Agree with all of these – and I think getting Christmas gifts shipped to your destination is a far better option than trying to make them fit into your suitcase! Great ideas. #wanderfulwednesday

    • Glad you agree Juliette! how would i be able to over pack if my suitcase was full of presents for others? 😉

  • These are all great advice for traveling this holiday season! I definitely pack light with almost a empty suitcase when I go to the States because I know I’m gonna go shoppppping! There are just things I cant get here. But I think this year, I’ll probably just ship it all back home rather than deal with it! #WanderfulWednesday

    • great idea about the suitcases! I hear you on the american shopping though! my sister lives in africa and when she comes home she always tells me she has to pack a full year of american consumerism in to the two weeks she’s home. lol.

  • Great tips! These all make holiday travel run that little bit smoother. Luckily for Carlos and I, we only have to travel for about an hour and a half to get to his family’s home. Although I’m thinking that the whole of the city will be leaving Santiago that day so it may be crazzzzzy!!

    • yay for short travel distances! here in wisconsin we’re always worried about the weather and the snow, but i’m assuming that’s not a worry for you guys is it, haha 🙂

  • I’ve never even thought about downloading the airline app. I’ve sure that would have saved a LOT of frustrations over delays. That’s a great tip! And yes, I’m a huge fan of audio books during plane rides!

    • seriously, the airline apps are my go-to. they are so helpful!

  • These are amazing tips!! Traveling during the holidays can be such a pain in the arse haha .. yet it’s understandable that it’s a crazy travel time since everyone wants to take advantage of their time off or see family and friends. I used to pack all my gifts because I thought bringing home something unique was super special (and it was) but recently I’ve switched to Amazon. SO much easier to have everything waiting for me already wrapped when I get home … Sorry Mom and Dad … 😛

    • lol! Amazon is a blessing that’s for sure! especially with amazon prime! free shipping during the holiday is music to my ears!