The holiday season is the busiest time of the year for travel. And while so many make annual pilgrimages, we tend to experience the same issues over and over. This year, prepare to make the trip less stressful and more comfortable. Whether you’re visiting family or taking a much-needed vacation, here are a few tips to help you navigate holiday travel like a pro.

Book Early

The busiest travel times are typically in the weeks leading up to Christmas and New Year’s, but those prices tend to creep up over time. If you want to save a few dollars on airfare or lodging, booking in advance is one way to avoid last-minute price hikes. Consider bundling your travel packages to save money. For example, many airlines offer bundled vacation packages that include airfare and hotel accommodations for a discounted price.

You can also use an online tool like KAYAK’s search tool to find the lowest prices across travel websites. Another helpful tip is to sign up for price alerts to know when airfares or hotel rooms drop.

Use Rewards Points

Airfare is typically the most expensive part of a trip. Fortunately, several rewards programs offer significant flight discounts and other travel perks. Many airlines and hotels also offer reward programs that can earn you additional discounts. You can also combine your reward points to maximize your savings.

Photo: rh2010 via 123RF

Download Airline Mobile App

Before you leave, download your airline’s mobile app. This way, you’ll know if your flight gets delayed or cancelled. The app will also provide other important information, such as baggage policies, departure gates, airport maps, and flight status. So, you’ll always have the latest news at your fingertips. Some airline apps allow you to upload your credit card information to purchase in-flight Wi-Fi, seat upgrades, and other services without standing in line.

Pack a Reliable Power Source in Your Carry-on

Whether you’re travelling by plane, train, bus, or rental car, it’s essential to have a backup power source in case your electronic devices run out of juice. A portable battery pack or power bank is an excellent choice because it can charge your cell phone, tablet, or other gadgets on the go.

Arrive Early

Most airlines recommend that travellers arrive at least two hours before their scheduled domestic departure time. Most airlines recommend you arrive three hours early for an international flight. This buffer provides plenty of time to check in, go through security, and grab a bite to eat before boarding the plane. And, with travel regulations and potentially short-staffed airports, arriving a couple of hours early is the best way to ensure a smooth check-in process.

Ship Gifts Ahead of Time

If you’re planning on bringing gifts with you, consider shipping them instead. Not only will you save money on baggage fees, but you’ll be able to bypass any issues that may arise with security screenings. Shipping your gifts in advance also reduces the chances of a lost or stolen bag.

That said, if you do decide to bring your gifts with you, don’t wrap them! Security agents have the authority to unwrap and examine anything that looks suspicious.

Take Photos of Your ID and Passport

Whether you’re travelling domestically or going on an international flight, it’s a good idea to take a photo of your passport and any other necessary documentation before you leave home. If you have a lost bag or stolen wallet, having these photos will help expedite the process of retrieving your items.

Pack a Change of Clothes in Your Carry-on

Chances are you probably won’t need a change of clothes while travelling to your destination. However, if there’s an unexpected delay, you spill food or drink, your flight is cancelled, or your checked bag is lost, it’s better to be prepared than not.

Buy Travel Insurance

While travel insurance isn’t necessary for every trip, it can provide many benefits, including trip cancellation/interruption coverage and medical/emergency assistance services. Travel insurance can also help cover the cost of replacing any lost or damaged luggage.

Travelling during the holiday season can be stressful — from crowded airports to cancelled flights and everything in between. But by keeping these simple tips in mind, you can make this holiday season more enjoyable for you and your family.

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