The 2012 Family holiday travel season officially kicks off today. This year AAA is predicting there will be over 43 million folks planning to travel this holiday. There will be a slight increase on the roads for a total of 39 million traveling by car and over 3 million traveling by air. With a bit of smart planning, parents can can keep everyone in good spirits (even without alcohol!...just kidding).
Thanksgiving Travel - The busiest travel day for this holiday is the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Whether by car or air this will certainly be the congested travel day and of course weather can complicate matters. Most folks have off Friday so Sunday is usually the most popular return travel day.
Christmas Travel - For this 2012 season, the peak travel days will be December 21 through January 6. Normally travelers can find great deals on travel in early December but this year, Hannukah Travel complicates matters a bit. Hanukkah begins in the evening of Saturday, December 8, 2012, and ends in the evening of Sunday, December 16, 2012.
So no matter what, expect that it will be busy. A bit of pre-planning can go a very long way to help your sanity...
Holiday Travel By Car -
If your family is planning to pile into the minivan either for Thanksgiving or Christmas Travel, a bit of pre-planning can certainly make life much easier...
Take Care Of Your Car - Prep your car for the trip, check fluids, tires and make sure you have emergency equipment on board. Should anything unforseen happen, you'll be glad you were prepared. This step can also prevent you from hearing those dreaded words "I told you so". Cleaning and organizing your car's interior will also make for a more comfortable trip.
Kid Care - When our three were little, we always tried our best to plan road trips when our kids were sleeping. If this isn't possible be sure to pack plenty of kid friendly activities and schedule frequently "run around" stops.
Plan Your Route - Don't wing it by your GPS. Do your homework so there are no surprises. While you're at it, plan your stops, food breaks and diversion stops for the kids.
Plan A Plan B - Have a second route planned just in case you run into traffic or the kids need a diversion.
Download Traffic Apps - For your smart phone and check it frequently.
Go Old School - Have printed maps of your planned route on hand just in case your electronic devises don't work you'll know where you're headed.
Holiday Travel By Air -
Boarding Passes - Airlines will allow passengers to check in online 24 hours prior to departure and print out your own boarding passes. If you can pack light with carry on luggage only, this means you can go straight to your gate and complete avoid check in lines. With carry on bags you can avoid waits at the luggage carousel too.
Airport Parking - If you have someone who can drop you off at the airport - wonderful. (Warning, you will owe them a HUGE favor). If you need to arrange a driver or if you plan to park at the airport - PLAN AHEAD. With 3 million extra flyers drivers and parking spots will be at a premium. Procrastination here will lead to disappointments.
Time - You will need PLENTY of it if you are flying during the holidays. Normal airport check in time is 1 hours prior to domestic flights and 2 hours prior to international flights. It's not unreasonable to plan to double these times during the holiday rush. (yes, parents I see you rolling your eyes at the thought of keeping kids entertained that long). Sorry, but with all the extra travelers, it will take you twice as long to navigate the airport.
Airport Security - Holiday travel puts extra strain on the TSA. The main goal is to keep all passengers safe.
- Get the TSA app for your smart phone. It offers travelers info on airport wait times, 3-1-1 guide updates, airport weather updates and more important help.
- Wrapped presents are allowed but not encouraged thru the TSA. If any screening questions arise, you will be asked to unwrap and open gifts. (If possible ship ahead or shop at your destination to avoid hassles)
- The TSA has an entire list of holiday travel with food and gifts and big news this year...snowglobes are allowed in carry on bags as long as they are smaller than a tennis ball and will fit in a plastic bag...who knew!