We all know that holiday travel is when you can expect peak traffic and expensive prices. We also know there are troves of people who love to get away during this time of year, despite prices and crowds! Here are some tips for saving you time and saving you money during holiday travel.
Book Early for Holiday Savings
Book as far in advance as you possibly can. Most resorts will have their pricing out for New Years next year. Airfare comes out 11 months in advance. The closer you get to holiday travel, everything is more expensive. If you’re reading this and looking for deals for this New Years or Christmas, unfortunately, that cruise ship has sailed, friend.
Most people don’t realize that a TON of people don’t actually go home for the holidays. They go on tropical getaways to decompress from work, family, and other real life toils. This paired with those who do travel home, cause a pretty constant price increase from late November through early January. (You can find some good deals in the weeks before Christmas, though, so keep an eye out for those small windows for savings!)
Holiday Travel Tips for Flying
TSA is reporting holiday travel numbers back to 2019 levels, matching pre-pandemic travel crowds. It’s better to be through the security checkpoint, happily waiting in your airport club than sweating it Home Alone style after a long wait.
Arrive Earlier than Normal
Arrive to the airport as early as you can. Three hours for holiday peak season is pretty typical for TSA. This applies to large airport hubs. If you have TSA PreCheck®, Clear, Global Entry, NEXUS, or some other program, you should still expect longer waits. (More on this further down.) Arriving early is especially important for international flights and for those travelers checking luggage.
All That Baggage: Holiday Travel Tips for Packing
Carry on packing is an art. Capsule wardrobes are on trend in recent years of minimalist movements, but aspiring to make this travel lifestyle work for you takes some effort.
Carry On Luggage or Check Early
For domestic travel, you are required to check baggage at least 45 minutes before your flight time. International flights are 60 minutes prior for checked luggage. If you aren’t there to check your bag in that timeframe, it’s not getting checked. It’s always a great move to carry on only, as many travelers know, so it’s not just part of our holiday travel tips, it’s always a smart move to travel light!
Carry On Best Practices
Some carry on bags make it through TSA security but are not technically approved carry on bags. They will sometimes fit into the overhead bins, sometimes they won’t. Be prepared on smaller commuter or regional jets to tag and check these bags at the gate. To further confuse things, there are international carry on sizes and there are expanders, which enter into the great carry on debate. Most airlines have information about carry on size and measurements on their websites or with a quick internet search.
You should always carry on your medications. Due to labor shortages, more lost luggage headlines seem to be cropping up in the news. While you can make do without your khakis or flip-flops, it’s hard to get by without some of the basic necessities and your vital prescriptions, so do keep those on your person while traveling during the holidays and year around.
Christmas Gifts and Packing
Consider shipping your gifts direct to your family destination if you are traveling home. Amazon allows you to ship direct, then you just have to wrap when you get there! You can also apply this tip to shipping other items to and from your destination, especially if you pay for checking a bag. Avoid the hassle and use that money to ship a parcel rather than check a bag.
Time and Money Saving Tips for Airports
There are only so many ways to make flying cheaper, easier, and more convenient. It requires a little more planning and research, but once you’ve found the right programs and methods for your locale and airline, you can put travel on autopilot (at least, until you need to renew your programs!)
Airline Status and First Class Tickets
Most airlines have a first class priority line if you have status or purchased a first class ticket. Examples include American Airlines and Delta Airlines — having status and slipping through a priority lane can save hours and position you in front of hundreds of others waiting in the general boarding lanes.
It is probably too late to get TSA PreCheck® for this seasons’ holiday travel. Make sure your TSA PreCheck® is not expired. It’s good for five years from your initiation date. According to the TSA PreCheck® website, “in November 2022, 92% of TSA PreCheck® passengers waited less than 5 min.” A bonus holiday travel tip which translates to year around savvy: see if your credit card loyalty program has TSA PreCheck® benefits, many will reimburse all or some of the cost to join if purchased with your loyalty card.
Clear is another great option, but make sure your favorite airport has this service. These lines are the absolute shortest at most major airports. Check their site to view all the airports with the service to weigh whether it’s right for you. At the time of publication the service was $189 for 12 months under the current promotion. You basically get escorted to the front of the TSA lines by Clear personnel.
Sometimes you’ll find both services complement each other if you travel a lot. CLEAR can be done at the airport without an appointment. Your fingerprints and eyes are used for verification, eliminating the need for a physical ID in the future. TSA PreCheck® requires an appointment, background investigation, and fingerprinting to ensure you’re a low-risk, known traveler in the future, so it takes more time to process.
This option is great for people who travel internationally regularly, in lieu of TSA PreCheck® go straight for Global Entry. You must go to an in-person interview at an airport to sign up for this service, a program of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. It costs $15 more than TSA PreCheck® so if you know you’ll be abroad, during the holidays and beyond this is a time and money saving tip.
Tips for International Fast Track Arrival Services
If you’re traveling internationally, time is your currency. To maximize time in your island paradise, see if your property has a service to help you avoid lines. Many destinations offer fast pass arrival services.
For example, Jamaica has Club MoBay, Barbados has the Five Star Fast Track Service, as does Punta Cana within the Dominican Republic. Someone meets you off the plane, skipping the immigration lines, and getting you to your destination faster. A Penyak Travel agent can make sure you book this perk to make your travel a breeze! There are many programs for different locations.
Last Minute Holiday Travel Tips
If you’re thinking you need to hop on a plane or book a last minute vacation, prices will be high, but you can decrease costs just a bit with some of these tips and tricks.
One Way Airline Fares
Searching one-way fares is always a great tip. (Recently, a listener saved $200 by splitting a trip from Minnesota to Las Vegas utilizing the very same airlines and the same exact flights simply by booking two separate flights instead of the easy button, round trip fare.)
You can also save by booking two round trip flights within your trip instead of one round trip, similar to the one way fares. For example, if you have a layover in DEN, it may be cheaper to book MSP-DEN and DEN to LAX, rather than MSP – LAX direct. A little search creativity pays off!
Evening and Overnight Layover Flights
These flights are less convenient but sometimes can save half the cost of your airline tickets. If you stay overnight (maybe $100) on a nearby airport hotel with a shuttle, you can save hundreds on your flights if you are somewhat flexible. For some, it’s less stressful to breakup the travel and connection stress. This is a pre-cation! Think of this travel hack as a pre-trip detox to maximize your vacation enjoyment! George and Janet love to overnight before their flight and recommend it to everyone! This is not just a holiday travel tip, but again, one that is timeless for travel ease.
Last Minute Getaways
There aren’t always a lot of last minute deals. Some resorts, like Sandals, offer last-minute deals on their website. Simply click last-minute deals and you can view them by resort for what is being offered. This is to fill occupancy gaps. Check it out, then call Penyak Travel to maximize the perks and book — remember, there’s no fee for our expertise!
Holiday season is so festive at these all-inclusive resorts! It really feels so good to spend Christmas in the Caribbean!
Insurance for Your Holiday Getaway
So often, travelers say they have never purchased insurance, have never used it, and most commonly, they don’t understand how it works! (We have an entire podcast episode on how this works!)
Winter Weather Delays and Cancelations
Holiday travel is often plagued with winter weather. (Ahem, have you looked at the storm bearing down on the country for the 2022 holiday season? Eek!) You can almost be guaranteed a holiday ripple effect at airports if Mother Nature decides to wreak havoc on the Midwest and mountain west with snow, or give the Southeast a does of chills.
Travel Insurance and Claims
Airlines cannot control these weather delays and cancelations and are not by law required to reimburse your inconveniences due to these unpredictable occurrences. If you have travel insurance, you can be reimbursed for these unexpected expenses by filing a claim for those extra nights of lodging, food, etc.
This can also be helpful if you are delayed flying and miss part of your trip. File a claim and you can be reimbursed there, too. More than normal season travel, holiday travel can really be a great time to have that peace of mind with travel insurance.
Medical emergencies while abroad can be very expensive. International hospital bills, helicopter Medevac services, not to mention added stress during a medical emergency regarding payment and bills can all be reduced by travel insurance. Many regular insurances do not cover international maladies.
Some credit cards cover cancelations, but if you are relying on your credit card coverage you must be an expert in the fine print!
Holiday Travel Tips to Make the Season Bright
Remember, everyone is frazzled, especially during the holiday season, so pack your patience! Expect the airports to be a little chaotic. Those who are traveling during the holidays and are well-traveled, remember many folks are not as savvy as you! You’ll see people trying to pay baggage fees with a personal check, not being able to stow a roller bag, deplaning etiquette, etc.
All of these things are just small annoyances in the grand scheme. Pay some holiday cheer forward and remember your Emily Post etiquette for behavior while in public, including airports and planes!