Air travel during the holidays is hectic. After over a decade of family travel in during the holiday season, these air travel tips will help make your experience more enjoyable.
1. Travel with Only Carry-On
If at all possible, pack light and travel with only carry-on luggage. Last December we spent almost four weeks on a family vacation in Asia with only carry-on luggage. Here is how we do it.
2. Breeze Through Airport Security
Airport security lines are epic during the holiday season. These tips will help you get through security as quickly as possible.
The best advice is to keep it simple.
- Avoid clothing with metal bits, and take your belt off or leave it in your bag until you are through security.
- Be sure to wear as little jewellery as possible, and remove hair accessories with metal pieces before you go through airport screening.
- Take off your coat, and any extra layers before you go through the screening device.
- Remove your shoes or wear a pair without any metal. You may be required to take off your shoes even if they don’t contain metal – the rules vary.
Liquids and Gels
Passengers are allowed to bring liquids and gels on board provided each item is no larger than 100 ml (3.4 oz). All items must fit in one clear, resealable plastic bag usually no more than 1L in capacity.
Put all of the liquids and gels in a clear plastic bag before you get to the airport, and keep them handy so you can display them in a bin when you go through security. Most airports provide appropriately-sized clear plastic bags – I always pick up a few for future travel.
In Canada and the United States, computers must go through the screening device in a separate bin. All smaller electronic devices may remain in your carry-on. Make sure you can power-on all electronic devices.
In European countries, passengers have to remove all large electronic devices from carry-on bags. Last month I was directed to secondary screening in Frankfurt because I forgot to remove a Kindle from my purse.
There are a lot of prohibited items – knives, tools, wine openers, etc. You can learn more about them on airline websites. Airport screening staff will confiscate these items if you go through airport screening with them.
3. Shop for Gifts and Supplies Online
One of the most helpful holiday air travel tips is to purchase gifts online (request the gift wrap option if possible) and have them delivered to your destination. If you are staying at hotel or resort, contact the concierge before you shop so you can provide the retailer with the appropriate contact information. I often only pack empty stockings and gift cards.
If you are travelling with young children and require diapers, wipes, etc., consider shopping online at a retailer like Drugstore.com and shipping the items to your destination.
If you decide to travel with gifts in your carry-on luggage, do not wrap them. This way, airport security staff can inspect the items in your suitcase. Some airports (e.g. SEATAC) offer holiday gift wrapping services after you have cleared security.
4. Download In-Flight Entertainment Apps
Many airlines stream movies as well as TV shows to your smartphone, tablet, or laptop via in-flight entertainment apps. Download the entertainment app before you leave home to save time and money (if you are roaming).
5. Select your Seat Before you Fly
Choose your seat before you fly if at all possible because airplanes are often full during the holiday season. Learn more about choosing the best seat on an airplane here.
6. Prepare the Kids to Fly
Flying with kids and their gear is challenging. These holiday air travel tips for families will help make your trip easier.
7. Deal with Flight Delays
Another reason I love travelling with only carry-on luggage is that it allows me to change flights and airlines with minimal hassle. If you encounter a flight delay or cancellation, speak with an airline staff member about booking a seat(s) on another airline. Last year we were booked on a United Airlines flight that was delayed and eventually cancelled. Although there was another United Airlines flight later that evening, the airline agreed to move us onto an Alaska Airlines flight, so we didn’t have to wait as long. This wouldn’t have happened if we had checked luggage.
If your flight is delayed, your credit card company may provide benefits provided that you used the card for pay for the trip. I often use a Visa with the following benefits – $500 per insured person (up to $1,000 maximum) for reasonable meals and accommodations, $100 for ground transportation, and $100 for entertainment if a flight is delayed for more than four hours.
8. Embrace the Madness
And last but not least when it comes to holiday air travel tips – take deep breath, order that eggnog latte (or margarita), and embrace the madness. Cheers! It is the holiday season and travel is one of life’s richest experiences.
Do you fly during the December holiday season? How do you do it? Can I add your holiday air travel tips to this list?