7 tips to make holiday travel less stressful : Life Kit : NPR

Illustration of people riding up and down escalators in a busy airport, traveling during a busy travel season and trying to make their flights.

Malte Mueller/Getty Images/fStop

Illustration of people riding up and down escalators in a busy airport, traveling during a busy travel season and trying to make their flights.

Malte Mueller/Getty Images/fStop

In this episode of Life Kit, Benét Wilson, an aviation journalist who has written for The Points Guy, MSN and CNN, shares tips on how to cope with the stress of holiday travel. She flies up to 50 times a year, she says — and “I have learned [that] the absolute worst time to travel is during the holidays.”

  • Be patient. “Lines are going to be long. TSA is going to be a little crazy. The [airline] might run out of seats. I always tell people to just pack their patience,” says Wilson.
  • Brace yourself for high airline ticket prices. “If you’re looking for rock bottom bargains, you’re not going to find those this holiday season,” she says.

    For the best prices, buy your airline tickets as early as possible and keep an eye on tickets on Tuesdays and Wednesdays — “that’s when carriers put out new fares,” she adds.

  • If your flight gets canceled, reschedule as soon as you find out. “I tell people to make sure they have the airline app on their phone because sometimes you get information on there quicker than the gate agents. Whatever you do, do not stand in the long line. Either use the app [to reschedule your flight] or just call the airline directly,” she says.
  • If your flight is overbooked, see what your options are. Airlines will often ask passengers with flexible travel schedules to volunteer to fly at another time. When that happens, says Wilson, airlines may offer travel vouchers and perks. Negotiate for “a first class seat or at least premium economy,” she says. And “ask for food vouchers, access to the airline lounge.”

    If you are involuntarily bumped, remember that you have rights. “No. 1, you can get your money back. You do not have to take a voucher — and the [airline must] accommodate you on the next available flight.”

  • Take action as soon as you know you’re going to miss your flight. “Stuff happens,” she says. “If you are in the car and you know you’re going to miss your flight, get on the phone and call the airline while you’re still driving so you can get other accommodations.”
  • If your flight gets canceled or delayed, do not yell at the ticket and gate agents. “They don’t control the weather, the mechanics of the plane or the situation. All they can do is try to help you. And when you are nice to them, they are much more likely to help you,” says Wilson. You could also bring candy in your bag to offer them as a thank you.
  • Pack essential items to make the journey a bit more pleasant. “I call it my little travel kit,” says Wilson. “I always have my Bose noise-canceling headphones. I take two power chargers. I have my Kindle, I have snacks. Download movies because you never know if the Wi-Fi is going to be on the fritz.” Check out the chart below for more essentials:
Carry on essentials in case of delays, according to travel journalist Benet Wilson. Clockwise from left: backpack, identification, hygiene, food and drink, electronics, clothing, medicine.

More great travel tips from Life Kit

Pack like a pro. We asked three road warriors to share their tips on how to pack light.

Keep the peace when traveling with a group. The stress of traveling and people’s personality differences can make it hard to travel with friends. Here’s how to have a good time while deepening your connections.

Make your trips more meaningful. This episode explores why we leave home, the mystique of getting away from our daily lives and asks: what is travel really for?

Cope with a fear of flying. If getting on airplane makes you anxious, here are 6 ways to distract yourself, deal with your emotions and face your fear.

The audio portion of this episode was produced by Sylvie Douglis. The digital story was edited by Malaka Gharib. We’d love to hear from you. Leave us a voicemail at 202-216-9823, or email us at [email protected].

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