Soaring ticket prices, delayed/canceled flights, bumper-to-bumper traffic and misplaced luggage—all part of the festive homecoming experience—can turn even the most put-together Lost Girl into a cheerless Grinch.
Here are just a few of the ideas that we’ve tried and traded amongst ourselves…all of which have helped us sidestep the most frustrating seasonal travel hassles. And if you wouldn’t mind sharing your own tips and strategies in the comments below, we’d consider it your holiday gift to us!
Holiday Saver #1: Don’t accept the first price—from any online source: For the longest time, I figured all airline ticket search engines, spit out the exact same fares for identical flights. Not so! After finding the “lowest-possible” (but still expensive) fare on a round-trip flight over Thanksgiving weekend on my favorite booking engine, I did a little more digging—and realized I could save nearly $100 by booking a series of one-way tickets on my airline’s own website. Because you can also cancel online reservations, penalty-free, within 24 hours of booking, I was able to make the change—and book the least expensive flight home.
Holiday Saver #2: Get a GPS, Guaranteed: As the other LGs know: I’m not exactly at my best behind the wheel, and couldn’t find my way out of a driveway without a GPS. That’s why, during my last road trip, I decided to rent a Ford Edge, which not only has the GPS built right into the dashboard, but also has voice commands, which allow you to adjust your destination—or make impromptu stops—while driving. It’s not only made me a safer driver, but it’s upped my odds of arriving almost anywhere on time. Score!
Holiday Saver #3: Take advantage of technology for travel updates and delays: There’s nothing worse than trying to push through a frantic crowd at your gate to get information on flights delays…or battling long customer service lines to rebook, only to discover all of the other flights are already full! Experts we spoke with at Orbitz.com recommended that we stay ahead of the curve by signing up for flight alert services that are sent via voicemail, email or text that keep you updated on your flight’s status. “You can also download Smartphone apps that allow you to book or change your airline, hotel or rental car reservations instantly,” says Orbitz Senior Travel Editor Jeanenne Tornatore. “Without having to deal with the mad dash of other customers.”
Holiday Saver #4: Shop online for holiday gifts to save on baggage fees: It’s tough to pack only a carry-on when you’re transporting presents for your entire family, but checking even one bag can cost you upwards of $50 in extra baggage fees. Instead, opt for gift certificates that fit easily into Christmas cards—or buy presents online that offer free shipping and have them sent directly to your final destination. December 16 is Free Shipping Day, where more than 1,000 online stores will offer free shipping with delivery by Christmas Eve. Find participating stores such as Apple, Godiva, and more at FreeShippingDay.com.
Holiday Saver #5: Mail personal items home ahead: For a procrastinator like me—who waits until the last minute to shop and to pack—fitting not only all of my personal items, but also gifts for my entire family seems an impossible feat. So I started a new holiday tradition, where a couple weeks before heading home, I mail a box of essentials (my clothes, shoes and toiletries). This way, I save space and money (and avoid liquid restrictions) by packing only one suitcase full of the last minute presents I’ve purchase. And with more affordable shipping rates and holiday options than ever from companies like UPS , it’s often cheaper to mail items than to bring them on the plane.
Holiday Saver #6: Make layovers more pleasant (and productive): Combat long layovers and increased flight delays by treating yourself to a pass to your airline’s VIP lounge. Carriers such as American Airlines offer both one day and 30-day memberships to their Admirals Club , which includes such amenities and perks as children’s rooms, complimentary computers and printing, free WiFi access, showers and unlimited snacks and beverages (including well brand liquors, house wines and beer), so you can stay relaxed and be more productive while you wait.
Tell us: What are your holiday travel tips?
And check out The Lost Girls’ Gift Guide for ideas for the globetrotter in your life.