How to journey with less stress during peak season
Even in the pre-pandemic era, long airport security lines, crowded planes and storms could make holiday travel challenging. Now, with more than two years of pent-up demand for travel, it is a good bet that this holiday season, we will see crowded airports and packed planes, nervous and out-of-practice travelers and, as often seems to happen, bad weather that can derail the best-laid plans.
Here are some tips to help make your journey smoother, no matter what comes your way.
All the pent-up demand for travel will likely increase wait times and make services less accessible. Book airport parking, car rentals and shuttle or car service rides as far ahead as you can, noting the cancellation rules for each on a list (or even a spreadsheet). Remember to add reminders in your calendar. At the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and several other airports you can reserve garage parking and a fixed time to go through the security line.
Check your documents
Don’t miss a flight or a travel benefit. Review the expiration dates on passports, driver’s licenses and other ID documents to avoid being turned away at the airport. Plus, check expiration dates for expedited travel services you may have signed up for such as TSA PreCheck, Global Entry or CLEAR. Most airlines, hotels and car-rental companies extended benefits for loyalty plans during the pandemic, but many expiration dates are back in force.
Many of us are a bit rusty as packers and as travelers. Make it easy on yourself at the holidays by packing light. “Lay out everything you think you need and then put half of it back” is old but sage advice. Go online to refamiliarize yourself with airport layouts and check for spaces and services that may have changed.
Pack light but carry extra travel supplies. Airports will be crowded and shops, restaurants and even airline check-in counters may be short-staffed. Avoid some of the frustration of long waits and delays by bringing charged gadgets and battery backups; snacks you can stretch to a meal in a pinch; clothes that can double as pillows and blankets; and a printout of phone numbers and contact information for places and people expecting you at your destination.
Your best bet for traveling stress-free this holiday is to pack extra patience to share with your travel companions, TSA officers, airline gate agents, flight attendants and other travelers.
—The top photo is by Alessandro Biascioli/AdobeStock.
—This article appears in the 2022 Fall Edition of AAA Washington’s member magazine, Journey.