How to Maneuver Through the Airport for Your Holiday Travel

The holidays are always stressful, especially when you are flying to see family. The kids and extended family flying together can really make or break your level of sanity! But, here are some great tips to make you the handle the airport like a pro {and keep the rest of the family in order}.

Allow Extra Time for Traffic and Security

Get to the airport early during the holidays. The rule of thumb is two hours early for a domestic flight and three hours for an international departure.

What might have been enough time in the summer, won’t work over Christmas. Traffic, and especially traffic to the airport, will be heavy and slow. The security lines don’t get shorter during the holiday season. Check the TSA’s website for up-to-the-minute line wait times at your departure terminal and consider signing up for TSA pre-check if you fly frequently. {See below}

Pack Sensory-Blocking Amenities

Nothing’s more conducive to fighting off the stressors of holiday travel than some shuteye. Unfortunately, sleeping on the plane is easier said than done. That’s where sensory-deprivation therapy comes in. Stock up on earplugs, noise-cancelling headphones, an eye mask, and a neck pillow to ease yourself into a restful state. And, make sure everyone in the family that is traveling has their own!

Skip the Security Line

The TSA’s expedited security program, PreCheck, costs just $85 for a five-year membership and grants you an exponentially shorter screening time—something that’s especially appealing during the holidays. What’s more, you can even leave your shoes, belt, and light coats on, and keep your laptop and 3-1-1-compliant liquids in their bags.

Always Check in 24 Hours Before Your Flight

There’s the obvious reason for checking in online before you arrive at the airport—namely, that you can walk right by the check-in counter and boarding-pass kiosks and head straight for the security line. But during the holidays, checking in 24 hours before your flight reduces the risk that you’ll be involuntarily bumped from an overbooked flight. Remember that flights are overbooked, especially during peak travel times.

Download Your Boarding Pass

Checking in for your flight is useless if you can’t show your boarding pass. Verify that your ticket displays on your phone or tablet even when you’re offline.

To be extra safe, place your boarding pass into an itinerary-tracking app like TripIt or TripCase, iPhone’s Passbook, or simply take a picture of it—just don’t post the picture on social media.

Don’t Check a Bag

Avoid checking your bags at costs, and not just because every airline except Southwest charges for them. Avoid a potential headache (and save a few bucks) by traveling with just one carry-on bag and a personal item like a purse or small backpack. Order any gifts and gift cards you may be handing out this year online and have them shipped to your holiday destination rather than bringing them on your flight.

Know Which Airports to Avoid

The busiest and most delay-prone U.S. airports over the holidays are Los Angeles, Chicago (O’Hare), San Francisco, Denver, Boston, New York (JFK), Orlando, Newark, Dallas, and Atlanta. Sometimes it’s impossible to avoid these airports, but whenever you have a choice, opt for the alternative option.

Pack an Extra Charger

It never fails, the moment you are going through the airport, your phone begins to die. Do yourself a favor and pack a fully charged portable phone charger as well as a wall charger to use at a charging station or plug anytime you have the chance.

Download GateGuru

If your itinerary includes a layover, download an airport-map app like airport GateGuru to help you pass the time wisely. Not only does GateGuru show you the gate locations around the airport, it also displays the locations of important terminal amenities like restaurants, restrooms, and shops.

Book Airport Parking

It’s fine for an hour or two, but long-term parking at the airport costs a pretty penny. If driving to the airport is the best way for you to arrive, consider checking prices from an off-airport parking provider like Park ‘N Fly or AirportParkingReservations.com. Uber is now an amenity at the VPS airport!

You can also get “free” parking at airport-area accommodations (“park, sleep, fly” packages), such as those available from BuyReservations.com, ParkSleepFly, and Stay123.com. All of these services shuttle customers between their cars and the airport—an especially helpful feature during high-traffic times like the holidays.