Holiday Travel Survival Tips

When you travel over any holiday, the number one thing to keep in mind is that you are going to be surrounded by people who don't travel as often as you do. With a little bit of patience and understanding, you can survive It's also never too late to scoop up some deals for last-minute Christmas and New Year's Eve getaways. Read on to discover some of the best tips to get you through some of the most chaotic and frustrating travel situations during the holiday season.

  Photo by    Timon Studler

Photo by Timon Studler

To stay better connected to WiFi while you're in transit, bookmark Anil Polat's Google Map of every airport lounge and their wireless passwords. This is especially handy for tricky situations when you don't have cell service but need to connect to WiFi to use a ridesharing app like Lyft or Uber.

To save time at the airport, get TSA pre✓® for an expedited security experience. American travelers returning home to the U.S. from abroad should download the free Mobile Passport Control app, which enables you to skip the long lines at customs and immigration when you arrive home. I can't say enough good things about it. 

  Photo by    Juja Han

Photo by Juja Han

There's no better way to pass the time than with a good distraction. Podcasts and streaming movies can help time pass faster on a long or delayed flight. Bringing your own entertainment is especially important if the plane you're on doesn't have any seatback screens or overhead monitors. Really feel your patience dwindling? Download the top 10 most relaxing songs on Spotify or iTunes to help you keep your sanity when travel (or family) is stressing you out.

  Photo by    Goh Rhy Yan

Photo by Goh Rhy Yan

Consider shipping items, like presents, ahead of your travel. When I used to travel from Boston to Connecticut on Amtrak's Northeast Limited train, it was always a struggle to find overhead luggage space during the holiday season. It was so much easier to order gifts online and pick a different delivery address (my parent's house), waiting to wrap them until I arrived at home. For anything purchased in stores, you can also try to ship the items ahead of time. Check online first for cut-off dates to ensure your package arrives in time. That way, you can focus on packing what you need to pack for your trip before you depart and not worry about paying any extra baggage fees or smushing important gifts in transit.

  Photo by    Bence Boros

Photo by Bence Boros

Nothing slows down the TSA security check line like an inexperienced traveler, so know the 3-1-1 rules. Always keep your liquids in your easy to access carry-on bag to make going through security move that much faster. I use several 1 quart bags and split them up: one for liquids, one chargers and misc. camera gear, and one for small non-liquid items like makeup, band aids, ibuprofen, etc. Check out the TSA's Travel Checklist for more information.

  Photo by    Ashim D’Silva

Allow plenty of time to get to the airport, train and bus station. If you're checking a bag and don't usually have a baggage tag, use one during this time of year when you should use one. Use GateGuru to find kid-friendly play spaces within the airport if it's going to be a long wait. If you're really early, you might even have time to treat yourself to a manicure and a massage.

  Photo by    Mike Kotsch

Photo by Mike Kotsch

Download the airline/train/bus/cruise, etc. mobile app in advance. Most forms of transportation have their own apps these days. Re-booking in case of delay or cancellation is a cinch when you can do it via the app. Delta's mobile app now lets you track your checked baggage in real-time, too.

Last, consider book your holiday travel with a travel agent. Let them handle any snafus like airline strikes or other similar holiday travel disasters while you go grab another drink and linger a little longer with friends and family. Travel agents can take the stress of dealing with customer service while you kick back and await the outcome.

Have any other holiday travel tips to share? Add them in the comments below.

Marie Frei

One Carry-On is a blog managed by Marie Frei, a travel expert and photographer with a passion for exploring off the beaten path locations. The blog covers honest and personal stories about living and traveling as an American abroad, shares her global appreciation for culture and design, and promotes traveling to far-flung destinations with a carry-on as fun, affordable, and easy.