If you are traveling by air for the upcoming holidays, it’s best to plan ahead. Think in terms of if something can go wrong, it will, this way if nothing goes wrong, you are pleasantly surprised. One of the biggest problems with air travel and the holidays is what to do with the gifts. You could pack them, although if you do, don’t wrap them, just in case the TSA decides they want to inspect your packages. Your best bet when it comes to how to deal with the gifts is to ship them separately. Ship them at least a week ahead of time. They can be wrapped and labeled and all put in a larger box. Ultimately, it is still cheaper than trying to put them in with your luggage and paying to check extra bags.
Now that you have shipped your gifts and those aren’t a worry anymore, if at all possible pack all of your clothes into a carry-on bag. Most airlines charge for all checked luggage these days, and the bonus is you shipped your gifts, and you don’t need to go to the baggage carousel and wait for your luggage to be unloaded and put on the carousel so you can finally just leave. You grab your carry-on, and head out whether it be to meet the family member picking you up or to the car rental desk. Quick and easy.
Of course, this is all assuming that you didn’t wait until the last minute to book your flight. If you’ve done that, there is a good chance you will either pay a small fortune or not go anywhere. The least expensive flights typically involve connections, and our instinct is to make any layovers as short as possible. While in theory, this is a great idea, the reality is that you never know what might delay one flight which causes you to miss your connection. So when you are booking your flight, keep this in mind, most especially if you are traveling to or from any areas that get “real” winters. Allow a couple hours between flights. I realize that spending time in the airport waiting for your next flight is a hassle, but it’s a lot better than missing your connecting flight completely.
Also, don’t forget that flying isn’t as simple as it was before 9/11. Security checks can take a while, and you should plan for being behind the jerk who wants to argue with the TSA about taking off his shoes or belt. This means make sure you get to the airport at least two hours early.
If you are flying with kids under the age of 14, make sure that they have something to keep them occupied, both during the waits and the flight. Airlines are relaxing a little bit about electronics on airplanes, especially when they can be blocked from trying to connect to the internet, but it is still good to have the children bring a book to read or some crayons and coloring books.