Even though the holidays roll around every year at the exact same time, they often seem to creep up on us. Isn’t it hard to believe that yet another year is drawing to a close? If you’re traveling over the holidays, don’t let stress take away from the spirit of the season. These tips will make your travels smoother and help you have a happier holiday!

Show up to the airport extra early
General wisdom states that if you’re traveling on a domestic flight, you should show up to the airport two hours in advance. If you’re not checking any luggage, an hour and a half in advance of your flight should suffice. And if you’re traveling internationally, some experts suggest being at the airport three hours ahead of your flight. During the holidays, when the airports are crazed, it’s best to give yourself extra time. Add between 30 and 60 minutes to the recommended times to make sure you’ve got plenty of time to check in and get through security and customs. You don’t want to miss your flight home for the holidays!

Get TSA PreCheck
One of the best ways to eliminate stress at the airport is to have TSA PreCheck. This program, which is available to US citizens, nationals and legal permanent residents, means that once you’re approved, you can zip through security. You can use the dedicated TSA PreCheck lines (which are typically MUCH shorter than the regular lines) and you won’t have to remove your shoes, laptop, liquids, belt and light jacket. Breezing through security really does vastly improve your airport experience and at only $85 for a five-year membership, it’s a no-brainer.

Be flexible with your travel dates
The holidays are the busiest time of year to travel so you can expect long check-in lines and long lines at security and customs. To avoid the busiest days at the airport, be flexible with your travel dates. Don’t travel on peak days when you know everyone else will be traveling. In fact, consider traveling on the actual holiday days if that’s an option. If you travel on Thanksgiving and Christmas day, you’ll enjoy a much quieter experience and depending on your destination, you can still arrive in time to enjoy a delicious turkey dinner with family!

Notify your bank that you’re traveling
Unfortunately, credit card hacking is becoming more and more common. And while the banks are great at monitoring this, it can also spell trouble for you. If you’re traveling and your spending habits start to look unusual to your bank and if they suspect that fraudulent purchases are being made on your card, they could freeze your account, leaving you stranded if you’re trying to pay for something. Avoid this hassle altogether by notifying your bank in advance that you’ll be traveling.

Pack an extra bag
Why is it that you can fit everything into your suitcase when you’re leaving home but on the way back, it doesn’t all fit back in? Even if you’ve not bought anything? If you’re traveling this holiday season, you might do a little shopping, whether for yourself or for gifts for friends and family back home. Don’t run into a space issue with your suitcase. Simply pack a flat, foldable nylon carry-on bag that you can then use to carry what won’t fit in your suitcase.

Don’t travel with wrapped presents
As tempting as it is to wrap all your gifts before you head to the airport, don’t do it. While it’s not against TSA regulations, your gifts are still subject to inspection as you go through security. If anything looks suspicious, they will be flagged for closer examination and the gift will be unwrapped. So it’s best to wait until you arrive at your destination to wrap all gifts.

Ship presents directly to your destination
To avoid taking your gifts through security altogether, consider having them shipped directly to your destination. Online retailers make this extremely easy and this really simplifies things for you. By shopping online, you can skip all the madness at the mall and have your gifts delivered exactly where they need to go so you needn’t worry about carting them across the country.


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