Being able to visit faraway friends and loved ones is one of the best parts of the holiday season. But with the long lines, crowded waiting areas, and over-packed flights, your dream holiday can start to feel more like a nightmare. Enjoy a stress-free trip this December with these brilliant air travel tricks of the trade.
1. Find the Right Price
Your vacation begins way before you reach the runway—or even the TSA line. Erase stress from your journey at first click by ensuring you find the lowest possible airfare. You can’t possibly relax on your flight if you’ve paid too much for it! At the beginning stages of your trip planning, sign up for a (free) service that will deliver fare alerts straight to your inbox. Tell Trip Watcher your destination, and they’ll ping you when the price drops. Similarly, Airfarewatchdog scours the fares and deals on all airlines to send you daily price alerts and promo codes.
2. Carry On Your Luggage
Packing light always eliminates airport hassle, but doing so is especially difficult during the holiday season. Save time at the airport by shipping your presents to Grandma in advance. Services like Luggage Forward (which includes door-to-door service and no additional packaging on your end) and Luggage Free (which costs as little as $2.20/lb for domestic deliveries) ship worldwide and track and monitor your luggage daily to ensure it reaches its final destination safe and sound.
3. Never Lose Your Luggage Again
If you must check your luggage at the airport but worry about letting it out of your sight, you may want to invest in a Trakdot Luggage device. Tuck this small, battery-operated device into your luggage to monitor your bag’s every movement. The device sends alerts to your mobile phone whenever it changes airport locations.
4. Get a Better Seat
Finding adjacent seats on planes can be difficult for families. Subscribe to TripIt Pro ($49 per year) for notifications on seat availability—you can set preferences for things like aisle, window, or exit row seats in addition to adjacent seat blocks—so you can snag the perfect seat before your fellow passengers.
5. Consolidate Your Itinerary
The TripIt app can also function as your personal travel agent. Simply forward all your travel emails (flight, rental car, and hotel confirmations) to a single email address, and the app will combine it all into a single itinerary that you can access from your computer or mobile device. You can add things like restaurant reservations, recommendations, travel notes, and maps to your customized itinerary for free and share it with friends and family. Sign up for TripIt Pro to get the aforementioned Seat Tracker as well as mobile alerts about any flight delays or gate changes, alternate flight options should yours be canceled, and notifications as to whether you’re eligible for a refund.
6. Game the Parking Lot
Don’t waste time circling the airport looking for an open lot (only to get stuck in the one that requires a shuttle ride and ten-minute walk to reach the terminal). Apps like AirportParking and BestParking will show you the most affordable and most convenient airport parking lots and send you driving directions to get there in a flash. AirportParking even lets you reserve a parking spot in advance.
7. Skip the Security Line
Easily the most daunting part of any airport trip is the TSA line. That scramble to take off your shoes (and jacket, and belt, and jewelry), get your laptop out of its bag, and segregate your liquids just never gets easier. Frequent flyers may find it worth it to apply for the TSA’s Pre-Check program. For $85, U.S. citizens and permanent residents can skip the security line altogether—all that’s required is a standard application, background check, and fingerprinting.
If the holidays are the only time you travel, the TSA Pre-Check may be overkill. But you can download the TSA app for instant access to your security FAQs and updated security wait times. Yep, it’ll tell you which security lines are the shortest.
8. Snack Smart
Much like TripIt, the GateGuru app will keep your itinerary, boarding pass, and all updates regarding your trip in one convenient place. But GateGuru’s got some additional handy little features. Notably, its AirportCard provides a visual representation of the airport and gives you quick access to amenity information, maps, and airport tips. Use this app to track down the best restaurants and concessions in the airport and treat yourself to a nice pre-flight meal. Then stock up on the best in-flight snacks.
9. Enjoy Your Flight
Once on the plane, you should be able to kick back, relax, and enjoy the ride. Too bad crying babies, armrest-hogging seatmates, and a dearth of in-flight entertainment are all waiting to make that impossible. Download plenty of podcasts, games, and reading materials to your tablet before boarding the plane. Then, create your very own sanctuary by popping on a pair of noise-canceling headphones (the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC1 QuietPoint are lightweight, compact, and reasonably priced at $79.95), and snuggling into your Ostrich Pillow. Smaller and more portable than the original Ostrich Pillow, we’re fans of the Ostrich Pillow Light for plane rides.
10. Beat Jet Lag
Don’t miss out on a day (or more) of your holiday celebrations by recuperating from your trip. For $35, a travel specialist at Stop Jet Lag will create a personalized program (which includes instructions for when to sleep, what to eat, and when to exercise) to help you combat jet lag. Hop off the plane and right into the festivities!
11. Enjoy the Perks
Log your trips with Traxo (an itinerary app similar to TripIt and GateGuru) to boost your travel score. As your Traxo Travel Score increases, you unlock perks from partners such as airlines, car rental companies, and hotels.
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