11 Easy Ways to Make Holiday Air Travel Better

Young man talking on phone inside the airport

Traveling around the holidays is a necessary evil. Luckily, by taking a few steps ahead of time you can arrive at your destination with enough energy to power you through to 2016. Make the process as painless as possible with these 11 easy tips.

1. CHOOSE YOUR DATES CAREFULLY.

Flying around the most popular holidays of the year is always a hassle, but some days are better for travel than others. The smartest dates to schedule your flight vary year to year, but luckily, travel sites like Cheap Air publish data annually on when it’s cheapest to fly. The best bargains can be found by travelling in the middle of the week, with the steepest prices falling on the weekends. January 3 will likely be this year’s most expensive ticket home, so by staying an extra day or two you could save yourself a lot of cash and stress.

2. PACK SMARTER.

Carrying all your luggage onto the plane with you is one of the easiest ways to simplify your travel experience. Make sure everything fits in your carry-on by coming up with a packing strategy ahead of time. Your parents were right when they told you that rolling your clothes is a huge space-saver. You should also consider the material of the clothes you’re bringing. Cottons, wools, and knits tend to resist wrinkling, so packing a wardrobe entirely of ugly holiday sweaters would be an excellent decision.

3. RETHINK YOUR RIDE.

Some airports charge $15 a day for their long-term parking, so explore your options before driving yourself to the airport. If you live in an area where ride-sharing services are prevalent, that may be the more economically sound option. And because the holidays are such a popular time for travel, it probably won’t be too difficult to find a carpool buddy to split the costs with.

4. DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR AN UPGRADE.

Free upgrades aren’t nearly as common as they used to be, but that doesn’t mean they’re impossible to get. If you’re at all inconvenienced by the airline, don’t be afraid to ask for a nicer seat on the off chance there is one available. Another strategy is to ask about availability once during check-in and then ask again at the gate if seats appear to be open. While the last minute “miracle” upgrades are rare, it never hurts to try.

5. BRING AN EXTERNAL CHARGER.

Don’t be one of those people bickering over outlets as you’re waiting to board the plane. By thinking ahead and packing a fully charged external charger for your flight, you’ll have one less thing to worry about if delays leave you stranded in the terminal (or on the tarmac).

6. PACK AN INFLATABLE TRAVEL PILLOW.

If you have a long flight ahead of you, being able to fall asleep on the plane may be a necessity. The pillows distributed by airlines are often difficult to use without ending up asleep on your neighbor’s shoulder. Pick up an inflatable neck pillow that can be easily folded and stowed away so it doesn’t take up any additional space in your bag. And if you pick one up ahead of time, it’s likely to be half the price of what you’d find at the airport.

7. MAKE YOUR OWN TEA MIX.

Tea is great for calming your nerves as well as for providing a gentle energy boost in the middle of a long flight. If the generic brands they carry on the plane don’t cut it for you, consider whipping up a DIY tea mix before leaving home. An easy recipe for fresh ginger tea involves combining slices of lemon, ginger, and a spoonful of honey together in a thermos. Once you board your flight, you can ask an attendant to fill it up with boiling water.

8. STOCK YOUR PHONE WITH PODCASTS.

Downloading hours of entertaining podcasts onto your phone is an easy way to prevent boredom on your flight. In addition to episodic podcasts, you can also listen to narrative series that follow one connected story. If you’re going on an international flight, you might even have enough time to binge-listen to an entire series in one sitting.

9. MANAGE IN-FLIGHT ANXIETY.

For some travellers, the most stressful part of flying begins when they take their seats. Combat in-air anxiety by downloading SOAR, an app designed to conquer the fear of flying. Users are able to access relief videos, relaxation techniques, and anxiety management courses. The app also features a “G-Force Detector” that’s meant to demonstrate the safety of turbulence.

10. MAKE THE BEST OF YOUR LAYOVER.

Don’t plan out every step of your flight only to be caught off-guard during a layover. The Gate Guru app lets you view the amenities of whichever airport you’re in, including coffee shops, ATM machines, and 10-minute massage stations. Some locations also feature user photos and reviews.

11.  MAKE YOUR LUGGAGE STAND OUT.

After spending hours on a grueling flight, the last thing you want to stress over is not being able to locate your luggage.  Simply tie a bright handkerchief around the handle of your checked bag to make it easier to spot at baggage claim. If you’re a chronic air travel, consider purchasing a unique suitcase that you’ll always be able to recognize from across the room.

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