Every year, millions of people set out for holiday travel to visit family and friends. Sometimes the thought of dealing with the hassle and expense can be too much to bear – but if you still want to treat your family to something special at holiday time, how about a local getaway? Since lots of people stay close to home during the holidays, look for discounted hotel rates – especially on a weekend, when many hotels (particularly in financial districts or near convention centers or office parks, which rely on business travelers) might have empty beds they want to fill. Or consider spur-of-the-moment holiday travel, have your suitcase packed and ready, and look on Internet travel sites for last-minute bargains.
Holiday Travel by Air
Holiday travel can be very challenging, particularly at busy airports. But there are ways to make it easier. The secret about traveling on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day to avoid crowds isn’t as true as it used to, but if that’s an option, go for it. Whenever you set out, there’s bound to be long lines, so bring a book or travel game and snacks – for the kids (you can share, too). Go online and print out your boarding passes in advance, to save time at the airport. And find out the carry-on restrictions to make sure you’re not carrying anything questionable. When you get to the airport, the extra few bucks you might be charged for sidewalk check-in could be worth it in terms of time saved. Also, if possible, steer clear of major airports. Holiday travel is prime time (and then some!), but you can often save time and money by choosing an alternate airport both at home and your destination. Traffic and car rental availability are also often easier to manage at smaller, less heavily traveled airports. If you’re bringing gifts for family and friends, consider mailing them ahead of time. With most airlines now charging for checked bags in coach and keeping careful tabs on weight allowances and carry-ons, sending a box or two ahead might be worth the effort.
Holiday Travel on the Road
Gas prices have actually been going down recently, so taking your holiday travel plans on the road might be an appealing option, especially if you want to take a shorter trip or don’t have to go too far to see friends and family. Before leaving, make sure your car is tuned up and that your tires, brakes and other systems are in tip-top shape, so your holiday travel won’t be interrupted by an unexpected breakdown. Fill up the gas tank at your local station before leaving, and try not to use highway rest stops, as gas prices are generally higher there than within city or town limits. And speaking of small towns, take a break from highway driving to check out the local scenery en route. This can be fun for everyone in the car during the holiday season, when many people have their homes lavishly decorated. If your car doesn’t already have a navigation system, consider renting one before hitting the road for your holiday travel; if you’re renting a car, get one with a navigation system to save time driving around unfamiliar areas – and to avoid bickering with your significant other about asking for directions! If you’re going to be driving through areas with toll roads, find out before leaving home if you can get a prepaid electronic toll pass. Also, bring a car charger for your cell phone, so you’ll be ready in case you have to call ahead or make an emergency call from the road.