It all sounds so wonderful… Time with family and friends around a holiday table. Champagne toasts to great things to come. Hot cocoa in front of a roaring fire, just like in the movies. And then it hits you: Travel.  No matter what you’re planning, chances are you’ll be one of the millions of Americans on highways or runways, getting where you want to go.  At best, it’s hectic. At worst… well, we’ve all seen Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. We checked with our Travel Experience team for their best tips on surviving holiday travel, to make your trip just a little easier.

1/ Book your trip now! Most airlines offer better fares until 21 days out. If you’re travelling for the holidays, that means it’s time to make arrangements today!

2/ Sign up for alerts. Be sure to download the airline app before you go. One of our planners received flight change alerts from the airline before the flight crew did.

3/ Build in extra time. My 45 minute drive easily runs to 90 minutes right before the holidays. Consider doubling your drive time. And if you’re flying, keep in mind that security lines are extra-long these days. We suggest arriving a full two hours before domestic flights and three hours before international. At our local airports, we often need every minute of it on busy travel days.

4/ Know the TSA’s 3-1-1. Want to bring home a Tupperware full of your grandmother’s pimento cheese spread? Guess what? It has to be under 3.4 ounces. Remember the 3-1-1- rule for liquids (and cheese spread counts!): “Each passenger may carry liquids, gels and aerosols in travel-size containers that are 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters. Each passenger is limited to one quart-size bag of liquids, gels and aerosols. Common travel items that must comply with the 3-1-1 liquids rule include toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, mouthwash and lotion.” For more important details from the TSA, visit their site here.

5/ Be prepared. It’s the holidays. That means you may face delays, lines, and cranky people. Mentally prepare for this with lots of reading material, games, snacks, and comfortable clothing to make your day easier. One of our planners brings a fold-flat water bottle and face mist to help her keep her cool. And, just this week, Netflix announced you can download shows to your smartphone or tablet! It’s a perfect chance to binge watch your favorite shows.

6/ Travelling with kids? Be even more prepared. Go in knowing that everything takes twice as long as you think it will. Build in extra time for bathroom breaks, naps, meltdowns, et cetera. And if you’re flying – pro tip here – no matter how long your flight is supposed to be, pack a sandwich and a bottle of water (bought after security only!). If you’re stuck on the runway for two hours with a hungry child, you’ll know this is the best decision you ever made.

7/ Make it easy on yourself. If you don’t have airline status forget about fighting for overhead bin space for your carry-on luggage. Our Travel experts suggest just paying the $25 bag fee, and avoid the pre-boarding stress of jockeying for position in the hopes of finding room on board for just one more suitcase. Yes, it’s frustrating to fork over another $25 to the airline, but it’s an investment in reduced aggravation and lower blood pressure.

8/ Juice up. Pack a fully charged mobile power station. Whether you’re stuck on the train or in the airport, you may need it.

9/ Don’t forget your earbuds! Many planes have much improved in-flight entertainment these days, but often you’ll need your own earbuds to enjoy it. And if you’re just in for a long car ride, you can tune out Dominic the Donkey in favor of the latest album or audiobook you’ve been dying to finish.

10/ Above all, have a great time. We wish you all a happy holiday season, wherever it may take you.

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About the author

As Sr. Director of Engagement at Next Level Performance, Susan serves on the Research Committee of the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF). Susan is a SHRM member and a member of the Incentive and Engagement Solution Providers (IESP) industry group. She has also served on the board of the Incentive Marketing Association (IMA) and is a past president of the Recognition Council, and a past member of the Performance Improvement Council. She is interested in the strategies and benefits of employee engagement, incentive, and recognition programs. An avid traveler, she is also passionate about the art and science of incentive travel. Favorite travel destinations: Costa Rica and Iceland.

Susan Adams
Sr. Director of Engagement
sadams@nxlperformance.com