November 23, 2005

Ending the holiday travel hassle

By Ana Hernandez-Bravo

Now that the holiday season is upon us, so is the busiest time to travel by air.

For those who are planning to fly in order to visit their loved ones, early preparation is the key. It is too late to find a good flight for the Thanksgiving weekend, but planning now for the winter holidays is a good idea.

The Internet has become an important travel tool. Web-sites such as Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity, and Priceline offer many rate options, some of which are discounted airfare, and special deals. These sites also offer packages that include car rental and hotel stay for those who are not planning on staying with family or friends. The major airlines also have their own websites.

When traveling by e-ticket, it is usually a good idea to print out a copy of the itinerary in case there are any problems at the desk.

Due to the possibility of travel plan problems, it is a good idea to arrive two to three hours before the flight to ensure that the check-in goes smoothly and that travelers don’t end up running to their boarding area. Being first in line is better than missing the flight altogether.

It is also important that travelers already have the mindset that there might be delays due to cancelled flights because of winter weather. Airports are likely to be packed and since holiday travel can cause significant stress, travelers should try to approach everything with a positive mindset. Part of this mindset should include anticipating long check-in lines, crowded parking, and even bad customer service.

It is also important to remember that there are strict safety measures at airports. Swiss army knives, nail clippers, scissors, and other sharp objects can be brought on a flight but not on carryon luggage. Having these on carryon luggage might lead to a holdup when being searched. If travelers are planning to take a questionable item with them on board, they should call the airport ahead of time to make sure that it will be allowed.

Travelers also should think about how they will spend their time on the flight. Taking reading material is another option while a laptop can serve as a work or play station for the flight. If flyers plan on taking a laptop, they should be aware that the Department of Homeland Security requires the laptop to be taken out of the case. CD, MP3 players, and iPods can provide favorite music to make the time go by. Travelers are also allowed to bring their own snacks in case the airplane food is not to their taste.

Flyers also need to decide ahead of time whether or not they should check in their baggage. The disadvantage of checking in their luggage is that it might be lost or delayed. If all of their luggage is taken as a carry-on, travelers should remember that the overhead compartments might be full of the other passengers’ gifts and packages, which could mean that the only room left would be on the traveler’s lap.

Another solution for travelers with holiday gifts is to mail or send them ahead of time. That would leave the wrapping to be done once settled at the destination. This also eliminates the headache of worrying about the wrapping being torn between the countless car, airplane, shuttle shuffling. Another advantage to mailing and wrapping the gifts later is that if they needed to be screened, wrapped gifts may be asked to be unwrapped.

Another important tip for travelers to remember is that their luggage should be watched at all times while in the terminal. Unfortunately, the holiday season doesn’t always bring out the best in people, and they might find unattended bags to be tempting.

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