Allow for extra time
Getting to the airport early is a no-brainer. Typically, we recommend arriving two hours before take-off for domestic travel and three hours for international flights, but the holiday season means busier airports, heavier traffic on the roads required to get there, security lines slowed by inappropriately packed gifts and more. So give yourself some extra time—a longer waiting time at the gate is always better than a missed flight.
Read more: Our tips for speeding through security
Take advantage of airport shops
The airport can actually be a great place to pick up last-minute gifts. Duty-free shops will help you stretch your budget for bigger-ticket items, while souvenirs from your hometown can be fun options for out-of-town family and friends. Be sure to research your home or destination airport for shop locations as some terminals may have better options than others. Even if you don’t have more shopping to do, even airport shops tend to go the extra mile on decoration and displays during the holidays, so treat yourself to some window shopping for a little surge of seasonal cheer.
Bring healthy snacks
Let’s face it: the holiday season is not the nutritional highlight of anyone’s year. Avoid energy-sapping sugar crashes and sodium-packed airport fare by bringing your own healthy food in your carry-on. A mix of carbohydrates and protein provides a more satisfying fix, so think fresh fruit, veggies or whole grain crackers paired with travel-friendly, individually-packaged peanut butter, cheese or hummus. (Just keep in mind that, depending on consistency, TSA regulations may require you to pack these with your liquids). Or, create your own trail mix by combining your favorite nuts, dried fruits and even chocolate chips for a little energy boost. Still feeling sluggish? You might be dehydrated. Many of us choose a sweet and seasonal drink in the wintertime instead of water, but air travel is notoriously drying so don’t forget to sip on some H2O, too. Craving something warm? Try a hydrating cup of tea instead of a sugary coffee drink.
Transporting gifts can complicate your packing plan; gift cards are probably the most travel friendly option. Make sure you bring any fragile or valuable items in your carry-on bag. The TSA recommends that you leave all gifts unwrapped, even in your checked bag, so bring gift bags for easy wrapping once you arrive at your destination. Check with your airline for baggage size and weight restrictions—larger items should be shipped ahead of time. Consider doing all (or most) of your shopping online, sending gifts to the recipients or a single family member who lives closer to where they’ll be unwrapped.
Read more: Our tips for cold-weather packing
Keep stress—and boredom—at bay
Since you’ve arrived early, there will probably be plenty of waiting around at the airport. Combat stress by taking some deep breaths and doing some light stretching before boarding the plane. Keeping yourself entertained will also help with any travel-related tension, so load up your smartphone or tablet with soothing music or a favorite holiday movie. Ensure your gadgets stay powered up by bringing extra batteries and packing your chargers in your carry-on. Don’t forget, if you’re traveling internationally, bring adapters for your destination as well as for any countries where you may have a layover and want to charge up.
How do you minimize holiday travel stress? Tell us in the comments!