Last year, AAA estimated that 48.7 million Americans would travel 50 miles or more from home for Thanksgiving, an uptick from 2015, thanks to rises in consumer spending and low gas prices. It's too early to tell if holiday travel in 2017 will have the same blockbuster travel numbers, but for the many millions of Americans who will visit family members or take a vacation for the winter holidays, it's important to remember that a higher concentration of travelers can mean a higher probability of something going wrong. It's never too early to plan, so we came up with six essential tips to make holiday travel bearable in 2017. Unfortunately, there's nothing we can do about your uncle's political arguments at the dinner table.
1. Avoid the busiest days.
If you have any flexibility in your travel plans, the holidays are the time to be adaptable. A good rule of thumb is to look at on which day the holiday falls and then think about which day would maximize vacation time without using vacation days — these are generally the most busy and expensive times since this is when everyone wants to travel. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the weekend(s) before Christmas and Hanukah are notoriously the busiest and most expensive times to travel (usually, depending on when the holidays fall). Avoid these days and avoid extra stress.
2. Sign up for Global Entry and TSA PreCheck.
Though it might be too late for this holiday season (wait times vary by airport), signing up for TSA Global Entry and PreCheck can save you hours of time in the security line. The only qualification required is being a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, then filling out online paperwork and paying about $100 before going to the airport for a brief interview and fingerprinting. It’s a lot of tedious work up front, but the effort will pay off when you breeze through security with your shoes on and your laptop in your bag. Security lines are the most frustrating during the holiday travel season, since the airports are filled with passengers who don’t fly regularly and maybe haven’t quite mastered the three ounces of liquids rule.
6. Bring a distraction.
No matter how far in advance you plan and how prepared you are to travel during the holidays, you’re probably going to hit at least a small rough patch. Be as prepared as possible by charging your devices ahead of time, pre-downloading driving directions and maps, and storing airline and hotel contact information in your phone. If something unpredictable happens, the best thing you can do is breathe through it and distract yourself with something you enjoy. Noise cancelling headphones, streaming movie services, yoga stretches, or a great book can bring peace and tranquility to even the most stressful travel situations. As far as dealing with your uncle’s politics at the dinner table, all we can do is wish you luck.
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