Home for the Holidays

Posted by on in Travel

Plan Away Your Holiday Travel Woes

If you’re not a fan of the hustle and bustle of holiday travel, take heart. The “getting there” part of the holidays doesn’t have to be painful. Whether you’re traveling internationally or domestically, the key to worry-free traveling is all in the preparation.

Sign passport, and fill in the emergency information

Make sure you have a signed, valid passport, and a visa, if required, and fill in the emergency information page of your passport.

Leave copies of itinerary and passport data page

Leave copies of your itinerary, passport data page and visas with family or friends, so you can be contacted in case of an emergency.

Check your overseas medical insurance coverage

Ask your medical insurance company if your policy applies overseas, and if it covers emergency expenses such as medical evacuation. If it does not, consider supplemental insurance.

Familiarize yourself with local conditions and laws

While in a foreign country, you are subject to its laws. The State Department web site has useful safety and other information about the countries you will visit.

Take precautions to avoid being a target of crime

To avoid being a target of crime, do not wear conspicuous clothing or jewelry and do not carry excessive amounts of money. Also, do not leave unattended luggage in public areas and do not accept packages from strangers.

Emergency Contact

Consular personnel at U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad and in the U.S. are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to provide emergency assistance to U.S. citizens. Contact information for U.S. Embassies and Consulates appears on the Bureau of Consular Affairs website at http://travel.state.gov.

Booking A Flight

Fly in the morning and late at night. Delays are far less likely for morning flights, and airports usually unclog as the afternoon and evening peak passes.

Choose nonstop flights. The worst, most brutal delays occur in connecting airports, where you have no home, friends or family to retreat to.

For itineraries with connections, it is best if you can muscle your flight path so that connections are in places less likely to experience delays — specifically, airports in warmer climates.

Day of Flight

Check for Delays. Before you head to the airport, double-check for flight delays. You can also sign up through an airline’s website for flight-delay alerts. Also, have a number for your airline handy in case of flight cancellations.

Don’t Forget Your ID. Any passenger 18 and older will need a federal or state-issued photo ID at airport checkpoints. All passengers traveling internationally will need their passport.


Don’t over pack bags. If security officers have to open them, closing overstuffed bags can be difficult and may result in that checked bag being delayed until a later flight.

Do not lock bags. If TSA security officers need to open a locked bag for inspection, they may have to break the lock. If you choose to lock your bag, use a TSA-approved lock, which has a locking system that enables security officers to open and relock the bag.


3-1-1 Rule

  • Liquids, aerosols and gels must be in containers three ounces or less

  • Items must be put in a one-quart, clear plastic zip-top bag and

  • Only one zip-top bag per passenger

Do not wrap gifts. Wrap them when you reach your destination. If a wrapped gift sets off an alarm, TSA security officers will need to unwrap the gift to check it out.


Bring protein and nutrient-dense dry food that won’t easily leak or get smashed in your bag. Examples include nuts, protein bars and firm fruit, like apples.

Drink plenty of fluids during your trip. If you can, choose water over other beverages while you’re in transit. Avoid soda and an excess amount of alcoholic beverages to minimize travel-related health conditions, such as jet lag.

Day Planning

Plan time for unexpected stops. Speaking of extra time… there really is no trophy that I have ever heard of for making good time. The best road trips are just as much about the journey as the destination.

Avoid rush hour traffic if possible. It’s one thing to tack on time on your road trip for an interesting roadside attraction. It’s another thing entirely to lose hours sitting in rush hour traffic because you ended up in Chicago at 5 pm. If at all possible, plan your route so that you hit major cities outside of peak driving times. If that’s not possible, look for bypasses and alternate routes.

Get the oil changed and your fluids checked before you leave. Make sure your vehicle is road trip ready before you leave. Have the oil changed and fill up on windshield wiper fluid.

Day of Trip

Check Road Conditions. If you are traveling in a cold or mountainous region, make sure to check the road conditions before you head out.

Make sure you have your license, registration and insurance up to date – and actually in the car with you.


Pack a cooler with food, snacks and drinks. Don’t count on finding something deliciously nutritious at a gas station. Load up on water bottles, juice boxes, crackers, pre-made sandwiches, fruit and other travel-friendly snacks. When traveling with kids, try to bring as many individually packed snacks as possible to avoid the need for sharing.

Bring a map. A real actual paper map that does not talk to you. Sometimes GPS systems malfunction. Have a standby…just in case. Check your route ahead of time to make sure it matches.

Make a point of packing for automotive emergencies. Make sure your car has a flashlight, blankets, a car cellphone charger, a can of aerosol tire repair, duct tape and motor oil…just in case!


Rest Up. Get six to eight hours of sleep the night before a long trip. Fatigue decreases reaction time and awareness. The last thing you need on your holiday weekend is an accident.

Avoid stupid traffic tickets. You know what’s not fun when you’re on vacation? Having to spend hundreds of dollars from your travel budget or gift-giving on a speeding or seat belt ticket. Yes, wear your seat belt. Use your turn signal. Don’t speed…especially through construction zones.

Get gas before you’re on E. And fill up the night before the trip. Start looking for your next pit stop when you hit the 3/4 tank mark to avoid any long walks by the side of the road with the little red gas can.


Stop every two to three hours to get out of the car and walk around. Take at least one meal break per day in a table-service restaurant, which allows you to change positions, rather than relying solely on drive-through windows.

Plan what you’ll be listening to in your car. Listening to audio books or music playlists with your favorite songs are a great way to make the drive more bearable.

Consider Destination Factors

Yes, traveling gets tricky during the holidays. On average, folks travel around 275 miles for long-distance holiday tripping. Your first step is to think about the cultural hurdles you may face once you get to your destination. If you decided to trade in your typical Midwestern Christmas for something slightly more exotic, be sure you’re aware of any international laws that could affect your plans. One of the best ways to safeguard your international travels is to get travel insurance.

Plan for Travel Companions

Another consideration is who you’re traveling with. Traveling solo can eliminate a whole host of travel prep worries. But if you’re traveling with children, you’ll face unique challenges. Keep your kids busy by packing a “fun bag” with games, snacks and other amusements.

Program Your Holiday Contacts

Unless you’re traveling to the North Pole, your holiday plans most likely include other humans. So, it’s a good idea to keep a list of your holiday contacts handy by programming them into your phone before you leave. Also, make sure your phone is at full charge before you take off and invest in a car phone charger if you don’t already have one.

Make Room

We’ve all been in that awkward spot where you come back with more than you started out with. To decrease the likelihood of having to cram gifts or purchases into your luggage, make sure you leave with enough room in your car or bags for items that you may be bringing back.

Check the Weather

The weather is a significant holiday travel factor that can make or break your plans. Investigate forecasts before you leave so you can pack the right clothing and make the necessary arrangements. Be sure to check out weather reports for the area of your route if you’re driving as well as the conditions forecasted for your destination. Give yourself plenty of time so you don’t have to rush and try to drive during the day if possible. Driving at night can be risky, especially in cold conditions where you could face snow or ice or in rural areas where there are deer and other animals on the roads.

Preparing for Emergencies

Speaking of weather, it’s also important to mitigate potential road hazards by packing an emergency kit for unexpected road conditions. Fill the kit with a battery charger, water, flashlight, a blanket and bandages. If your car breaks down, these items could prove essential.Trying to find food without cranberries in it is stressful enough. Don’t let travel add to your holiday trauma. Plan right and you’ll make it through all the transit smoothly. With a few simple preparations you may even enjoy the ride.


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