Holiday season travel often conjures up images of seamless, enjoyable trips. Air travelers enjoy smooth connections, and their checked bags arrive at the right destination (on time). Cordial airline staff, and courteous fellow passengers, are full of the holiday spirit.
Those who travel by land also seek the smoothest possible journeys. A reliable vehicle, manageable traffic, and congenial service associates ideally make for a pleasant trip. Along the way, hotels and attractions are festively decorated with seasonal décor, and staff members exude holiday cheer.
Regardless of the preferred travel mode, however, passengers will likely face challenges that threaten to derail their travel experience. Global travel advisor Gennady Podolsky is familiar with many of these potentially disastrous snafus. He offers proven travel tips that should help keep holiday travelers’ plans on track.
7 Trip-Enhancing Air Travel Solutions
Holiday air travel often comes with a distinct set of challenges. Time-crunched travelers frequently want to fly to a specific destination within a certain time window. They have little tolerance for flight delays caused by weather or airport logistics. Travelers also want proven tips on snagging an affordable rental vehicle. With these issues as a backdrop, global travel advisor Gennady Podolsky details seven strategies that can contribute to a better air travel experience.
Maintain Destination, Airport, and Date Flexibility
Travelers planning to visit family or friends may not be able to select an alternate destination. However, those seeking a vacation experience may have more flexibility. To illustrate, skiing enthusiasts can avoid pricey upscale ski resorts while enjoying the slopes at more affordable ski spots. Beach lovers can follow the same price-saving strategy, enjoying the sun and sand in a low-key setting.
Finally, travel date flexibility can deliver big airfare savings. To illustrate, travelers who fly right before or after Thanksgiving or Christmas will likely face sky-high fees. However, those who can travel before (and after) this window may face fewer crowds and more affordable ticket prices.
Consider Three Money- and Time-Saving Strategies
Some travelers wouldn’t dream of flying on the Thanksgiving and/or Christmas holidays. They would rather spend these special days with their families or relax at a favorite destination. However, global travel advisor Gennady Podolsky knows that traveling on the actual holiday means better flight availability and less-expensive airfares.
Travelers who don’t want to fly on the holiday should book an early morning flight. These flights are less likely to be impacted by delayed flights to the departure airport. In addition, travelers with canceled early morning flights have a better chance to rebook later in the day.
Savvy travelers also book direct flights whenever possible. Early morning flights are the best bet, as afternoon and evening options have higher odds of being delayed or canceled. A delayed flight can cause travelers with a later connection to miss that flight.
Book Flights Well Before the Trip Date
Travel experts, including global travel advisor Gennady Podolsky, recommend that travelers book holiday-season flights as soon as possible. Although September is an ideal time to make these reservations, travelers can take advantage of price alerts to snag later deals. Naturally, they risk sold-out flights closer to the travel date.
Finally, travelers who live fairly near their destination may consider abandoning their holiday flight plans. A train or bus may serve the same destination at a reduced cost.
Pack the Carry-On with Gifts
Travelers who pack holiday gifts in their carry-ons won’t risk losing items in wayward-checked baggage. That said, passengers should leave gifts unwrapped so Transportation Security Administration (or TSA) personnel can easily examine the items. Shipping gifts ahead eliminates this issue.
Flying with food items (especially liquid ones) may not be allowed. Travelers should place solid food items in clear containers for easier inspection. TheTSA website contains a section that details what travelers can bring (and cannot bring) onto the airplane.
Spring for Lounge Access
During the holiday season, finding a seat in a hectic departure lounge can be a challenge. To avoid this obstacle, travelers should consider paying for access to the airline’s upscale lounge. Although first-class passengers are generally invited to this exclusive venue, economy fliers may be able to upgrade their tickets or purchase an entry pass. Finally, some credit card-issuing banks enable their cardholders to access these well-appointed facilities.
Consider Purchasing Travel Insurance
Even well-laid plans can fall victim to weather, sudden illness, and other obstacles. Travelers should verify an airline’s cancellation and change policies before making their reservation.
Travel insurance, generally priced at 4 to 8 percent of a trip’s cost, often covers these unforeseen issues. Airlines and travel providers typically offer travel insurance policies. The traveler’s credit card company may include travel insurance coverage in the ticket purchase.
Not surprisingly, travel insurance providers offer numerous layers of coverage. Travelers should scan the fine print, as many policies exclude COVID-19 issues from the list of covered events.
Budget-conscious car rental customers can save money with a smaller-sized vehicle. With fewer drivers able to operate manual-transmission vehicles, these cars and trucks often feature lower prices. By declining expensive GPS navigation and/or satellite radio service, customers can save even more money.
5 Effective Vehicle Travel Tips
In certain cases, travelers may choose to drive rather than fly to their destinations. To decide whether this is a cost-effective strategy, drivers should consider the distance and the number of passengers in the group. The decision maker should also factor in the trip’s estimated time duration and predicted weather conditions. Global travel advisor Gennady Podolsky details five key strategies that can set the stage for a successful trip.
Schedule Pre-Trip Vehicle Maintenance
As with any upcoming road trip, holiday season drivers should ensure their vehicles are in good working condition before hitting the road. Besides increasing the odds of a safe trip, a well-maintained vehicle will realize less fuel consumption.
At a minimum, drivers should replace the vehicle’s air filters, change the oil, and check the tire pressure. If possible, the owner should ask a reputable maintenance facility to perform a thorough once-over on the car or truck.
Because holiday-season drivers will travel during the winter, they should equip their vehicles with tires designed for traction on snowy surfaces. Ideally, the driver will pack a winter emergency kit containing blankets, a first aid kit, and high-energy snacks. Highway flares and orange cones can help other drivers better spot a disabled vehicle.
Finally, drivers should consider obtaining roadside assistance coverage. Multiple companies offer these membership-based services for an annual fee. Members save money on jump starts, flat tire replacements, and/or tow trucks, among other services.
Travel During Off-Peak Hours
Traveling on less-crowded roadways can turn a white-knuckled ordeal into a manageable drive. This strategy also saves money, as vehicles consume less fuel by encountering fewer traffic jams. Finally, less traffic also provides drivers with extra stopping and maneuvering room.
To minimize congestion issues, global travel advisor Gennady Podolsky recommends that drivers depart in the early morning or late evening hours. This is especially important just before and after Thanksgiving and Christmas. On these days, drivers will likely see the most congestion in the afternoon and early evening hours.
Regardless of the departure time, travelers should always plan their trips in advance. Adding an alternate route can help drivers escape a huge traffic jam or construction delay. Finally, Gennady Podolsky emphasizes that drivers should never drive while distracted or impaired in any way.
Make Advance Hotel and Restaurant Reservations
Travelers who roll the dice on holiday hotel reservations often come up short. At many destinations, and cities and towns on the way, smart travel enthusiasts reserve their rooms or suites well before their travel dates. They realize that last-minute lodgings may not be available after a long travel day. If there is a vacancy, it may be offered at a highly inflated price.
To ensure availability, and receive the best rate, global travel advisor Gennady Podolsky recommends that travelers book their lodging(s) right after making their flight reservations. He also notes that vacation rentals and Airbnb’s may appeal to those who don’t want a cookie-cutter lodging option.
The same strategy applies to restaurant reservations (especially bucket-list eateries with long waiting lists). By booking a table in advance, travelers can cap their travel day with a memorable dining experience.
Find Fun (and Affordable) Attractions
If possible, holiday travelers should build in some time for intriguing side trips. Free (or low-cost) attractions often include state parks, historic sites, and scenic overlooks. Museums frequently add new dimensions to local or regional culture and history. Before putting these destinations on the “must-see” list, travelers should confirm each attraction’s operating hours.
Bring an Appetite for Adventure
When driving to a warmer destination, travelers should consider visiting a scenic park or rest-stop picnic spot. Equipped with a blanket, sandwiches and healthy snacks, and (non-alcoholic) beverages, families can enjoy an open-air meal together.
Compared with a fast-food eatery or expensive restaurant, they’ll save money while enjoying a tasty lunch in the great outdoors. Afterward, they’ll have a fresh perspective on the trip plus a memorable experience to share.
Simplify the Process with Targeted Apps
Versatile mobile applications (or apps) enable travelers to compare available flights and hotels. Map apps offer directions to help travelers navigate to their destinations. Attraction-focused apps give potential visitors a preview of venues such as zoos and theme parks. Simply put, apps now play an integral role in travel planning and execution.
Along with diverse apps and other online resources, global travel advisor Gennady Podolsky recommends that travelers consult with an experienced travel professional. This advisor’s extensive industry experience and specialized knowledge can help add a rich dimension to the holiday travel experience.