The Holiday Travel Guide by Seth Apper

 

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There’s an indescribable lurch in my soul consisting of pain, nausea, loathing, hatred, and fear (hey whaddya know? I described it!) when I think of Holiday Travel … and I do it for a living!

Sky high fares, sold out hotels, missed connections, getting bumped off oversold flights … all THAT stress is BEFORE you get to your final destination where you pray the turkey has been stuffed with Prozac.

For those of you already booked, confirmed, and ready to go:  CONGRATS!

Efficient planning is more than half the battle.  You’ve likely gotten better fares and better rooms at hotels.  If you utilized a travel professional to help with greater value – even better.   If not? Well, nobody’s perfect and you have room for improvement NEXT year.

If you haven’t even BEGUN to plan your holiday travel don’t get your new Slim Focus undies in a twist … there’s still time to pull this off without having to drink Korbel instead of Veuve at New Years.

As with many things in life, we must consider the time versus money paradigm.  In life you either spend time to save money or spend money to save time.  Time is money.  There is plenty of money to be made in the world but no amount of Botox will keep you young and pretty forever … unless you’re Cher.

Your time is valuable.  With a few tips on where to spend and where to save, you can get the MOST value out of your holiday excursions!

Ready??

I love my family.   However, I have infinite jealousy for friends NOT on speaking terms with their loved ones who get to go to Paris for the holidays instead of visiting one of the “fly over” states.  Transient cities like Vegas and N’Awlins have killer fares and hotel deals during the holidays as they expect travelers are headed to more “homey” destinations.  Feel like jet setting?  Carriers like American Airlines have business class to Europe under $2000 and economy for under $400!

When it comes to the holidays, mid-October is the cut off for wavering fares.  Every day later just makes it more and more expensive.

If you CAN fly nonstop … FLY NONSTOP!  The Golden Rule of Holiday Spirit may be “do unto others” but for Holiday Travel it’s Murphy’s Law.  Anything that CAN go wrong WILL go wrong.  Is saving yourself $100 by connecting worth what you lose waiting around in the airport to rebook or take another carrier when your first flight is late?

If you MUST connect: choose airports less likely to be affected by bad weather and give yourself PLENTY of time between flights.  Think about it, would you rather connect in Chicago with ice on the runway or Atlanta with humidity and a little rain?

If it doesn’t affect your primary nonstop goal, check other airports for better fares.  LAX is a very functional airport but within a short drive is BUR, LGB, and SNA.  Driving 45 minutes could save you a couple hundred bucks if you play your cards right.

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the busiest travel day of the year.
  Take PTO and fly on Tuesday.  It will be as if you weren’t traveling during the holidays … fewer screaming children too!

Travel earlier in the day.
  Taking the first flight for that plane will ensure that your flight isn’t making up for the morons that couldn’t situate their baggage on the previous journey. Websites like FlightAware give you info on how often your flight is on time and where the plane is beforehand.

Forget about what to do “when in Rome …” Just make sure you can actually get out of the airport.  Many destinations have astringent VISA and Passport requirements that need to be handled a few weeks in advance without risking emergency process fees.  Don’t forget that while YOU may love your four legged friend, your end country may not.  Imagine chartering to Barbados and finding out that Scruffy has to sit quarantined in a kennel at the airport the whole time you’re there! (not a phone call I enjoyed)

Your credit card company isn’t there to help you.  They are not your friend.  It is not free money.  Do not believe what they … sorry.  Those calls from Ms. Jones every day at 8:08A are making me bitter.  Remember they are there to make money and will do it however they can including 3% conversion charge for your airfare in foreign currencies or your incidentals abroad.  Can’t ever hurt to have another account from Capital One which does NOT charge fees.

Just taking a daily brisk walk before your trip will help with those deep cleansing breaths you’ll be taking because you forgot to pack your Xanax.  Aunt Mildred is waiting to discuss her latest benign biopsy with you … better take two walks.

As if the extra ten pounds you could gain from those parties and dinners wasn’t enough reason, working out before your trip will boost your immune system and relieve stress.  Just taking a daily brisk walk before your trip will help with those deep cleansing breaths you’ll be taking because you forgot to pack your Xanax.  Aunt Mildred is waiting to discuss her latest benign biopsy with you … better take two walks.

Time VS. Money paradigm:  Stressed about all of the above?  Hire someone to do it for you.  Travel Professionals know all of the above and then some and are there to help you.  Most often they won’t charge for hotels and their airfare service fees can be waived on business or are comparable to most airlines.  They can get you upgraded at your hotel, preferential seats on planes for free without any status, and extra goodies and amenities wherever you are JUST because you utilized their relationships!  Be aware of what you can spend and be honest – they’re there to help you get the best value.

Set…

Have a packing list for your trips ready.  Know what you usually use, what underwear you usually pack, what product you will need.

Have a toiletry bag always packed and ready to go.
  Never fill the bottles to the very top – air pressure tends to force those contents to expand and overflow.  Nobody wants their Kiehls and La Mer mixing.

Check out your phone’s App Store for the latest travel apps:  Flight Status (up to date flight info), TSA Wait (approximate security wait times for most airports), SoundScapes (for naptime onboard) and SO many more!


Know which airlines are offering free Wi-Fi on board for the holidays (AirTran, Delta, Virgin) and which have flexible refund policies when/if fares drop (Virgin, Alaska, JetBlue, Frontiers).

Never fill the bottles to the very top – air pressure tends to force those contents to expand and overflow.  Nobody wants their Kiehls and La Mer mixing.

DO NOT BE THAT BASTARD IN THE SECURITY LINE WITH LACE UP BOOTS, BELTS, JEWELRY, and a POCKET FULL OF CHANGE!

Avoid a pat-down by not wearing jewelry, belts, or anything with metal … unless you’re that desperate before or after spending the weekend with your family.  Your shoes and belt in their bin go in first, next your carryon bag, then the laptop bag followed by your 3-1-1 toiletry bag.  3-1-1 means liquids or gels must be in containers of 3 ounces or less, the containers must be placed in 1 clear quart-size zip-top bag, and only 1 bag per person is allowed

Stand up for your rights not to be discriminated against based on your gender!!  Women get to use open totes to shove their purse into and thus bringing three carry-on’s … why shouldn’t you?  I often stick my laptop bag into a duffel and then have a rollaway … just don’t over pack the duffel. There is NO rule that says your bags have to be zipped shut!

Gifts: Don’t bother wrapping gifts until after you’ve flown.
  As nice a thought as a bottle of wine is, you don’t want to drink it at 9 AM because you don’t have checked luggage and you can’t bring it through security.  Yeah … snow globes?  Why were you bringing that as a gift anyway? Oh and be careful traveling through “fly-over state” airports with “video head cleaner,” you don’t want to be detained and miss your flight.

Arrive in time for the flight before yours if possible … worst case scenario is you get to your destination early.  Best case is that you get on an earlier flight and don’t get delayed when your plane hasn’t landed or doesn’t make its original connections.

Know what airlines are most likely to bump you
:  Continental, US Airways, and American Eagle are notorious for it! JetBlue has a strict policy AGAINST overbooking.  Regardless, get your seating assignment early because whether you paid full fare economy or deep discount having a guaranteed seat does matter.

Go!

Screw Weezer, I love my luggage more.  Whenever at a counter, keep your luggage where you keep your family jewels.  Leaving it at either side makes it vulnerable to a drive by grabbing.  Also,
put your luggage in the overhead above the person’s head ACROSS from you
.  That way you can keep an eye on it.  If it is over your head someone can act as if they are getting something out of their luggage and help themselves to your iPad and anything else worth grabbing,

I love Pan Am but give me a break – do you wanna spend five hours on a plane in a suit and jacket or would you rather wear sweats?  Who are you afraid of seeing you looking smart … I mean comfortable.

In … out … in …. Out.  No, I’m not talking about joining the mile-high club.  DEEP BREATHS. You’ll need them.

If you have anti-anxiety meds, bring ‘em and just take half.  The altitude and air pressure will feel like you’re doubling your pleasure and you need to be SOMEWHAT conscious at debarkation.

If you’re freaking out stuck waiting on the ground put it all in perspective:  you could be stuck in the air.  How does circling because there’s ice on the runway so you miss your connection and have to spend a night in Detroit sound?  Now waiting an extra 20 minutes to board doesn’t seem as bad huh?

Kill time on the ground
playing a Twitter game whilst people watching:  How many people are mismatched?  That could be clothes or attractiveness amongst couples #justsaying.  Pictures are encouraged.

Kill time on the ground playing a Twitter game whilst people watching:  How many people are mismatched?  That could be clothes or attractiveness amongst couples #justsaying

Feeling less catty? It doesn’t have to be Thanksgiving to think about what you’re grateful for about your life right now.  Sometimes thinking about five really great things in your life can make you feel better about the insignificant “quality problems” occupying your mind at that moment.

The delayed flight, security showcasing your unmentionables, that OVERLY friendly passenger sitting with you for six hours are all TEMPORARY things.  They are great fodder for family dinner or cocktails by the pool in warmer climates.  Sure your destination is your goal – but it’s the journey that you’ll have stories about for years to come.

Hopefully these tips and suggestions will take the Grinch out of getting around this Holiday. Just remember that being ready is half the battle and even the worst setbacks will be over sooner than you think. Have a safe and happy holiday!

Please feel free to email me with any questions.

Check out this article and many others at the Almost Naked Blog for Andrew Christian!

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