Skip to Content

5+ Holiday Travel Tips (For flying and driving)

If you’re not hosting the holiday, you’re probably traveling to it. Keep your sanity with our Holiday Travel Tips. There are tips for traveling by airplane, RV, car, and with pets.

For more travel tips, check out all our travel posts.

A ticketing center at an airport gate, with a poinsettia and wreath, and gate signs with the words "5+ Holiday Travel Tips for flying and driving" digitally written above it.

The holidays are the most wonderful time of the year … unless you’re traveling. Because sometimes, traveling can be a pain. Especially around the holidays. On peak travel days, there are more people on the road, in the air, and sitting way too close to you at the airport gate.

What’s personal space, right?

But, you don’t have to dread traveling for the holidays. Instead, just follow our holiday travel tips for your calmest travel season yet.

And, keep in mind why you’re traveling. Chances are you’re seeing friends and extended family who you only see once a year. You’re going to have a great time hanging out with them. So if you encounter a busy airport or a traffic jam on the way to see them, don’t let it frustrate you to the point where you get frustrated and forget the reason for your trip. 

5+ Holiday Travel Tips (For flying and driving)

Affiliate links are included in this post and Drugstore Divas may make a small commission if you use them.

Impact Snacks bar.

Pack snacks and drinks.

It doesn’t matter how you are traveling: plane or train or automobile or horseback. This rule applies to you: Pack snacks and drinks.

What you can pack is based on your mode of transportation. But, you should always pack snacks.

No one gets hangry if there are snacks, so every traveler is just a little happier. Plus, your trip is much smoother if you don’t have to keep stopping for food along the way.

If you’re flying, you can’t bring any liquids over 3.1 oz., so that knocks out most of your drink options. And, if you’re flying and pack your own mini bottles of alcohol, you’re not allowed to serve yourself on the plane. So you can’t pop your own bottle of travel-sized liquor and indulge. A flight attendant must serve that to you.

A pink, silver, and blue reusable water bottle on a shelf in the store.

If there’s a nice flight attendant, you can ask if he or she will open the bottle and pour it into a cup for you. But the flight attendant might not be allowed to do that. So you might just want to skip the mini bottles and use that space to pack snack bars. Or an empty water bottle that you can fill at the airport.

If you’re driving, you can pack a cooler full of bottled water, sodas, juices, and whatever else you like to drink (that’s car friendly, so no alcohol on the open road). Plus, you can pack sandwiches for lunch and fruit for snacks along the way.

Packing your own food and drinks instead of making frequent stops at a rest stop or the airport café whenever someone gets thirsty is a lot more budget-friendly. And that means your can spend a little extra money when you get to your destination.

Speaking of buying your own snacks, be sure to check out our post about How To Save Money On Snacks For Road Trips because yes, snacks are delicious but they can get expensive. 

A silver watch in a watch box.

Leave early, but not too early.

Don’t wait until the last minute to leave.

The almighty “they” says get to the airport two hours before your flight, but you need to anticipate longer delays during the holiday season, both on the road and in the airport.

The roads can be slammed with travelers, and that means it takes longer to get anywhere.

And in the airport, with so many people flying, there will be long lines at security. And those lines move slower because people who are traveling now might not fly often. So they don’t remember if you leave your shoes on or take them off, if a tablet has to come out of a bag or if that’s just a laptop, on and on.

A crowded airport gate.

So more bags need to be hand checked than usual. More people have to go through the x-ray machine a second time. That all slows the line down.

So give yourself extra time. But, don’t get there too early. If you’re allowed to get to the airport three hours before your flight, don’t get there four hours before. Your flight won’t be checking in yet, so you’ll just have to sit outside, staring at your phone until you’re able to check in.

Airport tarmac.

Expect delays.

We drove to Washington, DC for spring break a couple years ago. There was so. much. traffic. That happens when there are so many people taking a vacation at the same time.

The car behind us, though, was a little antsy over the traffic, I guess. When he saw the traffic was opening in the distance, he got too excited — and slammed into us and then slammed us into the car in front of us.

Of course, that caused a bigger delay for us all (since we had to wait for the police to come) and it delayed everyone behind us as well. If you just expect delays and don’t allow yourself to get frustrated by them, it’ll be easier.

And keep that in mind when you think about speeding too. Sure, speeding may get you to your destination a few minutes faster — but not if you get pulled over and have to wait for a police officer to write you a ticket.

A couple driving in a car.

So if you’re taking the open road, just enjoy the open road. Drive the speed limit, don’t get frustrated in traffic, and don’t do anything that could cause you more delays.

There are so many flight delays at the airport this time of year too. Inclement weather can delay a flight, which then sets off a chain reaction of delaying every flight that plane was scheduled to fly for the rest of the day.

If your flight is early in the schedule is delayed a little while, our list of Things To Do At The Airport While You’re Waiting At The Gate will help you pass the time. But, if you’re at the end of that schedule, you might end up with a canceled flight. If you’re worried about that happening, travel insurance is good for your peace of mind. 

A sweatshirt in a luggage bag.

Only pack a carry on bag.

If you’re only traveling for a few days, your best bet is to only pack carry on luggage.

Checked luggage can get lost. Of course, airlines do their best to make sure no one’s luggage gets left behind, but it happens. It happened to me last year and let me tell you, it was such a nightmare. I don’t often check bags, but now, when I do, I make sure to have an AirTag in it so I can follow my bag along its route and find it if it gets lost again.

If you pack only in a carry on and keep it with you at all times, you won’t risk it getting lost along the way.

A piece of luggage outside of a home.

Plus, if you have your bag with you, you don’t have to wait at baggage claim to claim it like you do a checked bag. Many airlines will offer to gate check your carry-on bags to your final destination for free in order to save room in the overhead bins, especially if you paid for one of the cheap tickets and you’re last to board. That’s nice of the airline, and it sounds tempting, but it will delay you at the end of your trip. So to me, it’s never worth it.

If you do only pack in a carry on bag, it’ll help you to pack light and not overpack. Our Carry On Must Haves list will help you make sure you pack everything (and don’t pack the things you can’t carry on).

An iPhone opened to an app in the App Store.

Download travel apps.

When we were driving during Hurricane Florence, trying to get back to North Carolina from New York, there were so many road closures due to downed trees, flooding, and roads that turned into sink holes. The detour signs weren’t updated immediately, obviously, so parts of the trip were hard to navigate.

Pete used a mobile app that had updated road conditions, so we were easily able to find an alternate route. Download those travel apps ahead of time so you are prepared for your road trip. There are a lot of apps that make your vacation smoother. Before you leave, check out our list of 10 Free Apps To Make Your Vacation Easier, so you have them before you go.

There are a lot of apps that make your vacation smoother. Before you leave, check out our list of 10 Free Apps To Make Your Vacation Easier, so you have them before you go.

A good idea, if you have an iPhone, is to text yourself the flight number. Then, you can click on it in your iMessage and the flight status will open up so you can track your plane, see any delays, and more. Sure, you can get that information by using an airline app or website, but this way is just a little quicker.

Additional Tips For Holiday Travel:

Depending on how you’re traveling, we have a few additional travel tips for you to check out below.

A man getting a bag of food at a Dunkin' Donuts drive through window.

Tips For Traveling By Car:

If you’re planning on driving to your destination (my preferred mode of travel), you want to sign up for Upside. That app gives you cash back whenever you buy gas. You’re going to stop at the gas station and fill up anyway, so you might as well get some money back.

If you’re taking your own car, definitely bring it to the mechanic for a tune up before you go. The last thing you want are car troubles on your trip. But, just in case, put together a car emergency kit with items like jumper cables and a first aid kit.

Also, our 10 Advantages Of Driving Instead Of Flying post is really helpful.

And if you’re looking at rental cars, check out our 10+ Tips To Save Money On Car Rentals post before you rent something.

A sanitizing wipe being held up at an airline seat.

Tips For Traveling By Plane:

If you’re flying during the holiday travel season, direct flights will be your best idea. That way, you only have to worry about one flight there and back. You don’t have to worry about a delayed flight on your first leg causing you to miss your connecting flight. Yes, direct flights might not be the cheap flights, but it’ll save you a potential headache.

If you can’t book nonstop flights, booking the first flight of the day gives you more wiggle room if you have to come up with a backup plan because of a canceled flight. You don’t have too many options when you have a later flight.

Another quick tip. There’s TSA PreCheck, which you can apply for an can help certain customers go through a secondary security line that’s a lot faster. If you don’t qualify for that, some airports offer free programs (Seattle‘s Spot Saver and Orlando‘s Reserve powered by Clear are examples) where you can book a specific time to go through security, based on your flight time. You get to the airport at your designated time and breeze through security. It’s so much easier.

And, if this is your first time flying, our list of 5 Useful Tips For First Time Flyers will give you a little confidence when you get to the airport.

Two kids at the table in an RV, one is sitting and one is standing and looking out the window.

Tips For Traveling By RV:

If you’re renting an RV this travel season, because it’s easier to pack your young children in there than in the car, there are a few things you need to know first. Our Tips For RVing With Kids will help.

The bloggers at Life Of 2 Snowbirds travel numerous times a year in an RV, for months at a time. They have a ton of helpful posts about RV travel, including: Getting Ready For Our First RV Road Trip and What We Learned On Our First RV Road Trip.

A service dog on the ground between a man's legs.

Tips For Traveling With Pets:

If you travel plans include your pet, our Tips For Road Trips With Cats and Tips For Road Trips With Dogs posts can help assure that Fido and Fluffy have a good time in the car with you.

These are our top holiday travel tips. What are yours? Be sure to leave them for us in the comments.

Robert Edward

Friday 30th of November 2018

Nice tips.