As my regular readers know, I'm an avid traveler. There is little I love more than taking trips to explore new places, relax, and/or visit loved ones. And it works out that I tend to travel more throughout December and early January than the rest of the year, so I've had a lot of experience with the madness of holiday season traveling. In addition to visiting family around the holidays, I usually travel with my husband to the Caribbean in December for a festival his band holds, as well as to wherever they're playing their annual New Year's run in late December, and I take at least one small road trip to visit family and friends in early January. This year, because I have a baby due January 9th, is quite a bit different than the norm and I'm sticking closer to home. But hearing others talk about long lines and frantic crowds at the airport, traffic on the highways, scary winter storms, and other seasonal travel stress brings back lots of memories of my own experiences enduring travel this time of year. I've learned a lot over the years about how to make the process easier during the most hectic of all travel seasons, and I'm going to share some tips today that have helped me to simplify and enjoy the journey as much as possible.
1. Expect to Wait. This holds true for both flying and driving. If you're flying, be aware that lines and wait times will be longer during this peak season. And if you're driving, you can expect extra traffic and the possibility of winter weather. I am notorious for being late (admittedly not my best trait), but I have learned to allow myself a lot of extra time when I travel this time of year. I also try to start the journey with a good attitude and assume that everything is going to take twice as long. The great part about that is that if it ends up going quickly, you're happily surprised. If it doesn't, you're mentally prepared.
2. Pack Light. I know, I know - it's huge challenge to pack light this year of year, especially if you're traveling for the holidays and have gifts to bring, or for the New Year and (like me) can't decide which outfits to take with you. But the more bags you have, especially if you're flying, the greater the hassle. If you have a lot of gifts, consider shipping them in advance instead. Try to plan your clothing for each day and use packing cubes (my personal travel saviors), which can sometimes even mean only needing a carry-on. Not having to check a bag is huge in terms of saving time and, with some airlines, money.
3. Choose the Right Travel Rewards Card. If you're a frequent traveler (or even just a sometimes traveler), being able to earn and use travel rewards is key. Unfortunately, I've learned that booking holiday trips with travel rewards cards can be difficult due to inflexible flight times, low availability or hard-to-get seats. This is why I love the Capital One Venture Card. It's a travel rewards credit card that offers double miles on every purchase – anywhere, anytime, and without the restrictions commonly found in rewards programs. Cardholders decide when, where and how they want to use their miles, and they're redeemable on any travel-related expense – from flights to hotel stays, cruises and even Uber rides. They don't tie you down to a single airline and you don't have to deal with the hassle of advance booking and inconvenient flight times. Capital One offers straightforward, intuitive products and tools to help consumers use their money wisely during the holiday season and beyond. And when it comes to simplifying travel during the holiday season, the Capital One Venture Card is the way to go.
4. Use Travel Apps. I can't tell you guys how often my husband and I use travel apps and how much easier they make the traveling process, especially during the holidays season. We use airline apps to quickly check on flight status and delays, the Weather Channel app for updated weather information, map apps to check traffic times, apps to keep track of our travel itineraries, etc. Sometimes it's hard to imagine how we traveled before smartphones!
5. Travel During Off-Peak Times and Days. I know this isn't always easy this time of year, especially when you're having to plan travel dates around work or little ones. If you can make it work though, it can make a massive difference in your overall experience. I've found that for driving trips, traveling on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Thursdays tends to mean much less traffic on the road. And if you're able to fly at less desirable times (like red eyes, very early flights, or late flights), you'll likely save money and deal with less wait times at the airport.
I hope that these tips prove useful for those of you about to embark on holiday travels! For those of you taking trips soon, where will you be going? Do you have any other tips for simplifying travel this time of year?
Photo used in top graphic can be found here. All other photos are from my past December travels to the Dominican and Mexico, where I'm traveling right now in my dreams.
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