Holiday travel can be a headache but with this checklist you’ll be armed and ready so that you can focus on your loved ones, holiday traditions, and making memories.
  1. Always take a carry-on, never check your bags. The amount of lost luggage tends to soar over the holidays, so it’s best to avoid that possibility altogether. Save yourself the stress of a lost suitcase by only using carry-on bags during the holiday travel season. Just be sure to double-check that your luggage meets the airline’s requirements and board the plane as early as possible, since overhead compartments tend to fill up quickly.
  2. Don’t pack gift-wrapped presents. They can slow you down at airport security, which will frustrate you and your fellow passengers. The best idea is to ship your gifts ahead of time and lighten your load. The TSA allows wrapped presents in luggage, but they also have the right to unwrap any items, so it’s smarter to leave them unwrapped until you reach your destination.
  3. Arrive early. If you must travel on the day before Thanksgiving or Christmas, plan to arrive at the airport or train station earlier than you would normally. Both places will undoubtedly be zoos on those days.
  4. Avoid the holiday traffic. If you can take public transportation to the airport or train station, do so. Holiday travel means holiday traffic, and taking a car means you’ll need to leave even earlier than you already will in order to arrive early.
  5. Pack healthy snacks. Bringing your own snacks (nuts, dried fruit, popcorn) will save money and keep you from stress eating at unhealthy airport restaurants. Also, having something handy to nibble on means no waiting in long lines for food. Plus, especially if you’re traveling with kids, snacks can help prevent emotional meltdowns under stressful travel conditions.
  6. Don’t count on finding an outlet. Airports and planes are getting better about providing more electrical outlets, but it’s far from guaranteed that you’ll have access to one. To make sure you stay charged on the go, bring a high-capacity battery pack, preferably one that can charge more than one device simultaneously if you’re traveling with someone else.
  7. If you get stuck, find the best features your airport has to offer. It’s no secret that all airports are not created equal and frankly, some are better to be stuck in than others. That being said, there are usually a few highlights at every airport, but the key is to know about them in advance. For example, San Francisco International Airport has a yoga room, museum, aquarium, and great drinking and dining options, all of which can make a delayed flight a lot easier to deal with.
  8. Spend extra for a better experience. If you don’t have elite status or credit card privileges, consider spending a little bit more money to enjoy lounge access, seats with extra leg room, and/or priority boarding access. All three can make different parts of your journey more enjoyable, and a priority boarding pass can help prevent you having to check your carry-on.
  9. Know where to go for help. If your flight is severely delayed or canceled, call the airline immediately to rebook while you’re standing in line waiting to talk to the ticket agent. If the airline can’t rebook you soon, look for alternate flights on other airlines it may be worth it to buy a one-way ticket to get to your destination on time.
  10. Get ready for your road trip. If driving is part of your holiday travel plans, make sure your car is in tip-top shape for the journey ahead. Inclement weather can strike at any time, so it’s best to be prepared. At least a day before you depart, check the tire pressure, make sure there’s enough oil and antifreeze in the engine, and verify that your windshield wipers and all lights are working. Make sure your emergency kit is stocked with bottled water, non-perishable snacks, jumper cables, a first-aid kit, and blankets; if you don’t have an emergency kit, now’s the time to assemble one.