By Danielle Keech for MilitaryByOwner
The holidays truly are the most wonderful time of the year, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t completely filled with chaos. If you’re traveling over the holidays, then you know that the word crazy doesn’t even begin to cover it.
As military families, we often travel home since most of us don’t get to live near family. So, each year, we pack way too much stuff, muster as much enthusiasm we think we need, in order to travel 300, 800, 2,000 miles, and we hop in the car or board a plane.
You know all this because you’ve done it a million times. Are you sure that you’re doing it the best way possible? This year, before you start your trek, here are a few tips to make your holiday travel as worry-free as possible:
1. Ditch the presents.
Traveling with presents is a challenge in itself. If you’re flying, it means paying more in checked baggage fees. If you’re driving, it means giving up precious space in the car.
Instead of lugging gifts across the country to give to the extended family and toting the opened ones back home, try a less conventional way to give.
- Ship the gifts. Ask family to ship gifts to your house ahead of time and let your kids open them before the big trip home. This eliminates the hassle of taking them with you and also gives your little ones something new to play with in the car or plane—thus, warding off boredom.
- Skip presents altogether. Instead of giving your kids more toys, consider skipping presents this year and putting the money toward their dream vacation to Disney World instead.
2. Fend off sickness.
There are two things working against you and your children’s immune systems this time of year—the cold weather (or difference in climate) and traveling. Being in close proximity to others over the holidays greatly increases your chances of getting sick.
Though you can’t ward off the bugs entirely, there are a few things you can do to help:
- Travel with disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer. Be that person who wipes down everything in sight. Though you might look like a germaphobe to others, maybe you’ll be the one enjoying Christmas morning without the sniffles this year.
- Take immune boosters like Emergen-C, vitamins, and zinc lozenges. Start preparing your immune system before your travels by using over-the-counter supplements.
- Get rest. Though traveling and rest act as polar opposites, it’s important that you and your family get the rest you need to help prevent sickness.
If you’re traveling into another time zone, you can feel especially drained. Try to take it slow at your destination and not pack everything into a day if you have the time to spread it out over several.
3. Pack light.
Space is a precious commodity when traveling. The car only allows for so much and the airlines make you pay dearly for extra. Not only that, but they’ll drain your sweet time when you stop at the counter to check a bag.
If you can, avoid checking a bag entirely and use carry-ons. Make the most of your smaller luggage and:
- Use travel organizers, sometimes called packing cubes.
- Pack in light layers.
- Avoid multiple pairs of shoes (if you can!).
4. Use travel apps.
Navigate the holiday frenzy the best you can by using expert apps.
- Waze: provides driving directions, traffic reports, and GPS navigation
- MyTSA: access any information you need to make getting through security a breeze
- USA Rest Stop Locator: make the most of your stops
5. Bring snacks.
Ward off boredom in the plane and eliminate stops in the car by bringing plenty of snacks. Make it fun! Bring things that you don’t ordinarily eat. And let your kids eat the snacks they rarely get to sink their teeth into.
6. Pay extra to fly direct.
Though we’d all prefer to save money, it might be worth dishing out a few extra dollars to fly direct. Make it easier on the kids and avoid potential mishaps with connecting flights.
7. Research flexible dates to fly.
Flexibility and the military rarely go hand in hand. However, when it comes time to take leave, it’s worth looking into a handful of dates to fly in order to save money and avoid peak travel days if possible.
You should also open your search to include nearby airports. While the international airport close to your destination might be the easiest to travel to, traveling to the regional one an hour away might save you a few hundred dollars. Just be sure to consider the cost of a rental car or getting a ride before booking your flight.
8. Coordinate a ride to the airport.
Airport parking can be a beast, not just during the holidays, but always. If you have to drive yourself, you might consider reserving a parking spot well before your flight to ensure there’s room for you to leave your car.
However, if you can, look into taking an Uber or Lyft to the airport to save both time and money. Better yet, ask a friend to take you! Just be sure you tip them with a gift card or a present when you return.
Holiday travel is in a category of its own and we all know there’s no changing that. But hopefully, after reading this, you have a few ideas on how to make your trip home this year better than ever.
Happy holidays! Now, time to get packing!