The winter holidays are the busiest travel time of the year. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the amount of people making long-distance trips over 50 miles rises annually at this time by as much as 50%. While the vast majority of travel is by car, people visiting family and friends are also clogging the train stations, bus stations, and airline terminals. And if that wasn’t enough to send your blood pressure through the roof, there is also the additional stress of winter weather to contend with — causing delays, costly road accidents, and often trip cancellation. Here are a few suggestions to survive your holiday journeys and be an effective trip planner with your nerves intact.
As Ben Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” If you are driving, make sure your car is in tip top shape (including brakes and tires) and fully winterized before heading down the road. Have an emergency kit with flares, blankets, a first aid kit, and a flashlight with you in the car at all times. Double-check your routes and keep a close eye on the weather; don’t hesitate to change your route if need be. In bad weather, stick to the big roads. Keep a cell phone and charger with you at all times in case you need to call for assistance. Having a AAA membership can save a lot of money should you breakdown and require towing.
If you are flying, arrive early at the airport and be prepared for long security lines. Pack light and fly early in the day (many suggest the first flight of the morning) to avoid flight cancellations. If you book a ticket on an actual holiday as opposed to the day before or the day after, you will avoid the largest crowds and most likely save money as the airlines have more cheap tickets available on the less popular travel days.
Download the latest travel apps to your phone or tablet before leaving home. FlightView has real-time flight information including gate assignments, delays, and cancellations, and GateGuru can even give you the approximate time you will spend going through security. If you’re driving, GasBuddy will find you the closest and cheapest gas available and SitOrSquat will find you the cleanest, closest bathroom (definitely a testimony to the power of our online world!). At the very least, you should have Google Maps for real-time traffic conditions and The Weather Channel app for the latest weather conditions. Consider investing in an inexpensive portable cell phone charger, too, for long travel days and in the event of a car breakdown or lack of outlet access in an airport.
No matter how stressful the situation, you can and will make it through it. The oft-repeated aphorism that “you get more flies with honey than with vinegar” is especially true when dealing with difficult people in stressful holiday travel situations. Rude fellow travelers, surly airline employees and rental car associates; most, if not all, of their bad attitudes can be killed with kindness. If you’re nice to them (even if they are jerks), they are more likely to help you efficiently. Keep your cool, take a deep breath, and try to find your center in the midst of chaos. If you practice meditation or yoga breathing, often this comes in handy in these situations. Bring earplugs in case of screaming children or inconsiderate loud seatmates. Don’t get too hungry or you risk getting “hangry”! Keep snacks and a drink or two with you, and make sure to eat before or bring food with you on your flight. The same goes for a road trip; occasionally it can be hundreds of miles in between rest areas/gas stations depending on where you are traveling, so make sure to pack snacks so you don’t start biting each other’s heads off in the car.
The Alliance for Affordable Services is committed to helping you save money while traveling and arrive at your destination safely this holiday season! Members qualify for the Association Motor Plan, which offers 24 hour free access from anywhere in the U.S. and Canada with coverage up to $125 per event should your vehicle become disabled or damaged. The Hotel Access Card also offers members anywhere from a 10% to 70% discount on lodging at 26,000 locations nationwide. The Alliance also offers members rental car discounts up to 20% off at Budget, Hertz, Enterprise, and Zipcar. For more information, and to become an Alliance member, visit the Alliance Direct Benefits website today or call us at 1-800-733-2242 (M-F, 7am-5:30pm Central Time).