We're sure many of our dear and divine OB readers are seasoned travelers, so for those of you who know you can pack a carry-on in ten minutes you might not find much here you don't already know. But for those of you new to the holiday travel extravaganza (college freshmen we're thinking of you) here are some tips and tricks you might find useful while navigating the living hell that airports become from Thanksgiving weekend until after the New Year. All those travel pros - please chip in with your nuggets of travel wisdom!
1. Buy wisely: Be a savvy consumer when it comes to flying the not-so-friendly skies. Tuesdays are the cheapest day to buy - the airlines and discount sites publish new deals on Monday and re-publish ever lower prices on Tuesday in an effort to beat out competitors. You might also want to try saving a search in sites like Kayak.com or Farecast and just wait for the lowest price to come to you.
2. Try to get a on a flight that leaves in the morning or afternoon: We know those last flight of the day tickets are appealing because you can leave right after exams or squeeze in one more full day of work, but with winter weather and over-booked flights conspiring against you there's a good chance of delays and cancellations. Avoid roughing it in the children's play area of Terminal B and get an earlier ticket.
3.Travel light: Avoid checking your bag if you can. Leave you bumble and bumble behind and ship your gifts. Not only does it save time, but if your flight is cancelled and they have to redirect your luggage it's a good bet you'll spend your first day home arguing with a surly baggage attendant. If you don't have a sturdy duffle or snazzy roller - get one.
4. Check-in and print out your boarding pass before you leave: Again, anything you can do to avoid lines or waiting is good. Everything takes more time during this time of year: security lines are longer, weekend traffic is even worse than average, there are about three times as many people to run between if you're dashing to make your flight.
5. Don't follow the crowd: If your flight is cancelled make sure you listen to the announcement carefully - there's often a precious tidbit of information that most panicked travelers ignore - like an alternate flight you might be able make or a request that you rebook at the airline's main check-in desk instead of the kiosk within the terminal.
6. Smile and play nice: Having a flight cancelled after waiting through hours of delays is heart wrenching and infuriating. You are not alone in your fury, but you can stand out and get home sooner by staying calm and charming your way onto a new flight. Airport employees get yelled at, abused, and threatened about a hundred times a day. Don't underestimate the power of their special airline industry computers; they can work wonders if you ask nicely.
7. Just in case undies: Even the most cunning and organized traveler can't win every time. Freezing rain in Chicago could mean flight delays all over the country. If you had to check your bag make sure you have a fresh pair of clothes and the essential toiletries. Being able to put on clean knickers and brush your teeth after spending the night using your laptop as a pillow will make you want to punch everyone in an airline uniform a lot less.
8. Pack a snack: Not only is airport food expensive, but a lot of restaurants and shops close around 9 p.m. You do not want to be stuck in travel purgatory hangry, and by that we mean a dangerous state in which you are both hungry and angry at the same time. A bag of trail mix and a few granola bars are always good to have on hand.
9. Baby wipes, Purell, Airborne: The travel trifecta of illness protection. There's a reason why the expression "this place smells as fresh as LaGuardia" doesn't exist. Airports are veritable petri dishes during the holidays so do your best to fortify yourself against the onslaught of germ stranger-danger.
10. Be safe, Be smart: Scoundrels of all varieties lurk in airports - a $120 ticket is a small price to pay for a half dozen iPods, wallets galore, and perhaps a MacBook or two. Use your good sense, keep your stuff zipped up, and be prepared to pitch the mother of all hissy fits if someone gets all up in your business.
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