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5 tips to survive the nightmare of holiday travel

December 11, 2014

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A Transportation Security Administration checkpoint at BWI AIrport. Photo by Benet J. Wilson

Passenger stress goes sky high during the busy holiday travel season. In the first of this two-part series, I’m offering tips and ideas for your audience to get through the busy days around Christmas and New Year’s.

Here are five ways to survive nightmare.

  1. Make and share lists and documents. I make copies of my travel itineraries and passport, along with a list of what I’ve packed in my checked bag (I use the 99-cent Packing + TO DO app) and keep one in my carry-on and one at home.  So in case something happens, folks know where you are, you can get an emergency passport much quicker and you’ll have an itemized list to present to airlines in case that bag is lost forever.
  2. Get to the airport early. The early bird gets the worm — and is much less likely to get involuntarily bumped from a flight. Airlines tend to boot off travelers who are the last to check in before taking off. The least likely to get bumped are those who paid the most for tickets or have premium status on a carrier.
  3. Know your travel rights. If you should volunteer to leave an overbooked flight, or if you are involuntarily bumped, there are rules on what compensation and accommodations you’re entitled to, as outlined by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Key tips: one airlines are required to give you cash, not vouchers, if you are involuntarily bumped; and two, negotiate for what you want with  voluntary bumping. Also stay in the know by looking at an airline’s contract of carriage. Carriers are required to have a copy available for travelers, but this rule isn’t always followed.
  4. Be smart – use your smartphone. There are myriad apps that can help you negotiate your travel experience. Two of my favorites are: Next Flight ($2.99 in iTunes and Google Play), which allows you to check for alternate travel in case of a flight delay or cancellation; and GateGuru (free) offers maps and great crowd-sourced reviews of airport food offerings, along with real-time flight status.
  5. Find peace at airport churches. Need to get away from the teeming masses, but you can’t afford to pay for an airline lounge? Airport churches are a great alternative. Most of them have extended hours, and even if you’re not religious, they are very welcoming.

Finally, remember what Mom said: be nice. Having worked for two airlines, I know exactly what employees can do to make your travel experience miserable if you’re not nice.  I’ve benefited with upgrades and accommodations by being nice and offering kind words to airline workers in the airport and on flights, especially during the busy and hectic holiday season.

On Friday, I’ll be back with the story of how I manage flying with my daughter, a seasoned traveler at age 9.


U.S. Department of Transportation’s rules on overbooking

Airfarewatchdog list of airlines’ contract of carriage

Packing + TO DO app on iTunes


  • Benét J. Wilson

    Benét, known as the Aviation Queen, is a senior editor at TPG who is best known for being an aviation journalist for 25-plus years. Her love affair with travel and aviation began at age 6, when her Air Force family moved from California to a military...

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