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Surviving holiday travel

December 11, 2014

By Alliant Credit Union

Tens of millions of Americans travel by road, rail and air during the holiday season. If you're traveling, keep in mind that many other people are traveling too, so patience is a necessity. Here are tips to survive the holiday season without having a meltdown.

Do your research 
If you're driving, research alternative routes in case traffic becomes overwhelming. The scenic route may take longer, but at least it has less traffic. Find points of interest along your route to stop and take breaks, too. If you're flying, check the airline's restrictions ahead of time on carry-on luggage and bag check fees.

You should also do some research and plan for the unexpected. Schedule extra time before flights to deal with security and between connections for flights. Pack your car with snacks and water, and if you’re not heading south, think about bringing tire chains for snowy roads.

Get connected
Prepare your smartphone or tablet with the latest travel apps before you hit the road.

  • For those traveling by air, apps are available to get real-time flight status from your airline and weather updates for your departure and destination cities. And the My TSA app provides wait-time estimates for TSA security lines.
  • For those traveling by car, apps can provide real-time traffic updates and information on traffic jams or weather-related travel delays. You can also get apps to find the cheapest or cleanest gas station or diner on the road you’re traveling.

Pack lightly
Avoid waiting for your luggage – or worse, losing it – by packing lightly and not checking your bags. If this is not an option, make sure you have a change of clothes in your carry-on, along with important items like medications and legal documents, just in case your checked baggage is lost.

Remember earplugs
You can't escape the chaos, but you can tune it out and mentally take a break. Remember to bring earplugs to block the crying baby, couples arguing, children whining and everything else that may be stressing you out. Noise canceling headphones and calming music are also great for tuning out the stressful noise around you.

Ship gifts and food
The TSA recommends shipping wrapped gifts – or waiting until you reach your destination to wrap them – because airport security may have to unwrap a gift to inspect it. Ship gifts ahead of time to take away some of the pressures of packing and traveling. If that doesn't fit your travel plans, get something small and easy to pack, such as a gift card. The TSA website provides a guide to traveling with food and gifts, but they recommend that you ship food before you travel rather than bringing it with you.

Travel smart
Statistics show that flights leaving early in the day have a better record of arriving on time. Plus, if your flight is cancelled, you have more options of finding another flight later in the day. The best time to drive is when everyone else is sleeping: early in the morning or late in the evening. If you're the driver, you'll encounter less traffic, and if everyone sleeps during the car ride, there will be less passenger stress to deal with on the way.

Accept stress
If you go into your trip expecting and accepting that there will be stress, you'll be better able to deal with it. Think of it as a holiday tradition and the great story you may be able to share over dinner with family or friends.