I'm not sure how many of you travel on Christmas. We did 99% of the time when my sisters and I were younger. My parents are both from the Chicago area, so every year we would pack up and head north for the holidays. I love spending time with my family, but traveling can be a bear. So here are some of my holiday travel tips (both as a traveler and a former airport employee).
Ship Presents! There is nothing worse than a carefully wrapped package getting ripped open by the TSA because the scanner isn't getting a good read on it. About two weeks before Christmas, ship your gifts to your destination. That way, they are waiting on you and ready to go for Christmas morning.
Skip the Shampoo! If you are staying in a hotel, there is complimentary shampoo, conditioner and soap in the room. If you are staying with relatives, you can borrow or hit the local drug store. This will save room in your bag, reduce the chance of a spill, and potentially save time in airport security. If you do choose to pack liquids, remember you can only have 3 oz bottles and all liquids must fit in a one quart ziploc bag.
Pack for Snack Attacks! It can be expensive purchasing snacks at a shop in the airport or a gas station when filling up the tank. Instead of spending all of that money, pack a small bag of snacks for the trip. This can be especially helpful if you hit construction (in the car) or get stuck with a delayed plane.
Plan for Plan F! That's right. Don't just have a Plan B, have multiple back-up plans. The weather this time of year is pretty unpredictable in most of the country and the slightest shift in weather patterns can screw up all your travel plans. We used to fly stand-by, so we always had four or five routes planned out before stepping foot in the airport. If a flight to Chicago O'Hare filled up, we hopped on the next flight to Midway, Milwaukee, or anywhere an O'Hare connection was available. Keep a list of alternative flights on hand so you don't have to bug an already annoyed and overworked gate agent. If you are driving, bring a GPS and constantly check on traffic. Most states have a number to call for traffic - write it down and call ahead. Make sure you have a few alternative routes available, and - most importantly, give yourself extra time. There are lots of cars on the roads, the weather is not always great and a two hour drive can take six hours this time of year.
Bring a Blanket. Whether you are sitting on the tarmack or in a car in traffic, having your own blanket is a must. This will help cut back on the heat and gas you use in the car and keep you warm when stuck in a plane that may be experiencing technical difficulties.
MOST IMPORTANT - keep a smile on your face and a positive attitude. The number of rude travelers is astronomical this time of year, and I am telling you, kindness goes a long way. When I worked at the airport, I was far more likely to help out the traveler who came in and was cheerful than the one who bit my head off for something completely beyond my control. A good attitude also helps keep the kids inline. If your kids see you are calm and happy, they won't panic. But, the second you panic, they panic, causing you to panic more. It's a vicious cycle, so nip it in the bud and just SMILE!
Happy Travels to everyone and a Very Merry Christmas!