(ARA) - Planning a surprise visit to Grandma and Grandpa for the holidays or a family trip to celebrate the new year? Holiday travel can be stressful, but with some careful planning, it can be full of joy, instead of headaches. Check out these holiday travel tips to help you get through this busy time with ease.
* Avoid peak travel dates. You will often find the best prices and lowest numbers of travelers if you fly on the holiday itself instead of the day(s) before. If possible, travel on Christmas Day and New Year's Day, and avoid a return flight on the Sunday evening after a holiday weekend. Choose wisely the time of day you travel as well. As a rule, airports are least congested in the mornings and later at night.
* Be flexible and have a positive attitude. The No. 1 rule while traveling over the holidays is to be prepared for the unknown and have back-up plans. It's always smart to anticipate and plan for delays. Pack extra snacks, a good book, your cellphone charger, games for the kids and try to relax if you are faced with an unplanned event. Do not dread the flight. Children, even babies, pick up on tension, stress and anxiety and react to it. Be prepared and flexible, and take the opportunity to enjoy the journey and teach your kids new things. Point out new sounds, smells, people, scenes and even sizes of airplanes on the runway.
* Pack wisely. Decide well in advance of your flight if you will check or carry on your luggage and plan accordingly. If you decide to carry on, be sure to follow TSA rules about liquids and don't stuff your bag over its capacity. Kids can unknowingly delay you through security, so remember to always check kids' carry-on bags for any liquids, gels, etc. before you head out to the airport. If you opt to check luggage, be prepared to pay extra fees and again, pack as light as possible so you can manage your luggage.
* Carry on the essentials. Carry a backpack as your personal item in order to keep your hands free. Make sure it's filled with essentials for you and your family. The contents of your carry-on should cover hunger, thirst, boredom, spills, sickness, fear, tiredness and medical emergencies. Remember multiple diapers, an extra change of clothes and your little one's favorite stuffed animal. If you're traveling with an infant who is nursing, bring the new Boppy Travel Pillow. It's a full-sized, compact version of the award-winning original Boppy Pillow and is designed so Mom can feed baby comfortably anytime, anywhere. The Travel Boppy Pillow folds into a small and sleek travel bag and even snaps right on to a stroller and therefore is not considered an extra carry-on bag.
* Become a tech savvy traveler. Take advantage of technology. Whenever possible, print your boarding passes at home or use check-in kiosks. The earlier you check in, the better seats you will get. Think about doing your holiday shopping online and having your gifts shipped to your destination. This will cut down on luggage and the risk of gifts getting lost. Have the airlines send you an email or call you if your flight is delayed. Or, sign up for a service like Flight Tracker on your phone where you can get flight status updates within minutes. Make sure phones, music players, portable DVD players, etc. are fully charged and pack chargers for use at your destination.
* Make health a priority. Make sure that you and all family members wash hands, eat well and rest before you travel. Pack healthy snacks, hand sanitizer or wipes, tissues, etc.
* Leave early. Plan your journey to the airport accounting for enough time for long security lines, traffic, full parking lots, etc. and then give yourself an extra 30 minutes to help alleviate stress from any peripheral delays you may encounter.
* Practice makes perfect. If you're traveling with children, help to prepare them in advance for the journey by role playing and explaining things like removing shoes, putting all belongings (including blankets or stuffed animals) on the moving security belt, waiting patiently in line, etc.
If you do some planning in advance, you can arrive at your destination with a smile on your face instead of a headache.