Everyone loves spending time with their loved ones during the holidays, but the actual travel to get there can be a real pain. Long lines, bad weather and poor organization can lead to a perfect storm of flying chaos. Delays are inevitable, and they can range from a minor annoyance to a serious trip disruptor.
Here are some techniques for avoiding, or at least minimizing, the damage caused by holiday travel delays:
Schedule Your Flights Carefully
Air traffic is heavy throughout the holiday season but there are some disaster days you should try to avoid at all costs. For example, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, is one of the heaviest travel days of the year and is annually marked with gridlock and delays. Flying Thanksgiving morning however, is usually much cheaper and less crowded.
If you can, try to schedule your flights on lighter travel days to help ease the tension. To minimize delays, try to schedule flights earlier in the day, before things have a chance to get too backed up. Avoid booking the last flight of the day for any given route—if plans fall through you could find yourself stuck in the airport overnight.
The biggest danger when it comes to holiday delays is missing a connecting flight. You can eliminate this issue by booking only direct flights, but that isn’t always possible or affordable.
If you must have a connection in your itinerary, budget ample time in case of delays. Normal wisdom is 45-60 minutes minimum between flights, but you may want to budget two hours or more during the holiday season. If you are switching airlines or flying internationally, give yourself even more time.
Another thing to consider is weather. One nasty Northeaster and your entire flight itinerary could be put in jeopardy. If you can, try to schedule any layovers in a warmer part of the country. Think Atlanta instead of Boston.
Keep Track of Changes
Monitor your flights before you even leave for the airport to check for potential delays and issues. TripIt is great for this, they will alert you if your flight is delayed or if you’re in danger of missing a connection.
It’s also wise to show up at the airport early during these disaster-prone time periods. That way if something happens with your flight you can talk to someone in person about a solution.
Find Your Zen
Even if you do everything right, delays can still happen. At some point, all you can do is take a deep breath and find a way to deal. Wear comfy clothes, bring along a fascinating book and make sure you have a snack. Remember: you WILL get where you are going, eventually.