If you’re a frequent flyer, you probably have an established travel routine: pack the night before and leave the house at time X to arrive at the airport at time Y so you have enough time to go through security. The holidays, however, throw a wrench in the routine. Between the weather and increased crowds, a well-laid plan and refined drill can quickly devolve into a holiday airport nightmare.

But air travel during the holidays does not have to turn you into the Grinch. A little extra preparation and the right attitude can help stave off a holiday airport nightmare. Blog 8 of our 12 Days of Christmas series has you covered with a few tips and tricks to avoid holiday travel mistakes. 

Pack SmartAvoiding Holiday Airport Nightmare - Pack Smart

If possible, stick to a carry-on. A well-organized carry-on will save you time and money as you’ll skip baggage check-in and fees.

If you expect to receive gifts, bring an extra empty bag for your holiday bounty.

Avoid excess or oversized bags as most overhead bins will be overflowing – you don’t want to be that one passenger that’s slowing the boarding or security process with overloaded bags and hands.

Don’t count on finding an outlet so bring non-electric entertainment. A book, deck of cards or puzzle will come in handy when your phone, tablet or laptop dies and you can’t recharge it.

Bonus Tip: If you have any holiday gifts, send them ahead of time or buy them online and have them shipped directly. If you have to travel with your gifts, do not wrap them until later in case a security officer needs to inspect the package.

Avoid Peak Days

Peak days are recurring characters in travel nightmare stories. They are stressful for both travelers and the airport staff so avoiding them means avoiding a holiday airport nightmare featuring irate passengers and overstretched staff. Traveling on peak days is also costly.

For a better experience, travel on off-peak days. This year, avoid flying on December 26th. It is the only identifiable high demand day at the end of December because Christmas falls on a Saturday. For New Year’s, avoid January 2nd which is very popular and one of the most expensive. Travel on January 1st or the 3rd to avoid the extra cost and airport crowds.

Bonus TipFor the least stressful, least crowded and cheapest travel, fly on the actual holiday.

Be Early

On paper, this is the easiest tip to follow. However, most travelers make the mistake of not budgeting for enough time. In fact, a lot of travel nightmare stories start with travelers cutting it close when planning and starting the trip. 

So leave really early – early enough to feel silly for doing so. This will give you plenty of time to make it through the long lines and crowds and get you to your destination with as little chaos as possible. 

Avoiding Holiday Airport Nightmare - Long Lines

Also, keep your layovers to as few as possible. A layover can quickly turn into a stay over which can quickly become a holiday airport nightmare. A nonstop flight means you’re more or less guaranteed to make it to your destination as expected.

Bonus Tip: Take a cab or public transportation to the airport to avoid backup at parking lots and shuttle lots.

Keep your Eyes Open 

Airports can be tricky to navigate. They are labyrinths where getting lost is easy. Those traveling to a new destination, first-time travelers or infrequent travelers may want to familiarize themselves with the airport beforehand. 

We’re not talking studying the map of the airport, but a little preliminary research will let you know the airport’s reputation with delays, cancellations, traffic, TSA, etc. This information will help you decide how early to arrive at the airport, whether to check your baggage and more. Also, know where to go for help in case there is a delay, cancellation or you miss your flight.

Research will also let you know what perks are available at the specific airport e.g. right before Thanksgiving, Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport gave up to seven days of free parking to the first 1,000 cars on Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

Take a Deep Breath

Traveling around the holiday is stressful and sometimes no matter how much you prepare and plan, you might pull it off without a glitch. It’s best to remember that a lot of what happens is out of your control.

If you find yourself in an uncomfortable or downright rotten situation, try to keep your cool. Those around you as just as frustrated so instead of doing something that will escalate the stress, sit down and take a moment to yourself and until you feel at ease. 


Come back tomorrow for our 9th blog, 10 great jokes to tell at your office holiday party.