It’s already that time of year – as I write this, many of the 45 million turkeys consumed at thanksgiving are being killed (Fun Fact: PETA prefers the term “murdered”). Most people enter into this holiday season with visions of perfect scenarios: Wearing the fancy apron while preparing the Thanksgiving turkey which will undoubtedly emerge perfectly-cooked from the oven. Everyone will rave about your cooking and you just know it in your heart that this is the year Uncle Joe will go easy on the scotch and not go on another tirade about how young people no longer have a work ethic. Perhaps you will wait for the weather to get just a little chillier and wait for some snow to fall before venturing out to the tree farm to cut down the perfect Christmas tree with just a swing or two of the axe. Of course the children will cheer you on as they drink their hot cocoa. And you are convinced that this WILL be the year that the wife doesn’t complain that you cut the trunk too short.
The key to having a successful travel experience during the holiday is very simple: Keep your expectations low. Prepare for the worst and don’t even bother hoping for the best. By expecting the long delay, whether your plane sits on the tarmac or you sit in traffic on the freeway, you might find yourself pleasantly surprised when things go well.
CHOOSE TRAVEL DAYS WISELY:
If you are travelling with a newborn or a child under the age of two during the holidays, then you need to remember that there is no room to complain when things go wrong. And when the people around you on the airplane give you dirty looks because your child is whining, the only appropriate response is to apologize and offer to buy them a drink.
Seriously – if relatives want to see your little kid that bad during the holidays, then they need to make an effort to visit YOU. If you MUST travel, consider getting out-of-town on the Monday or Tuesday before the holiday in an effort to avoid the mad rush of people. Same with the return trip – either leave late on Thanksgiving night or wait until the following Monday. If you experience weather delays, at least you won’t be experiencing them with an unmanageable crowd of germy strangers.
If you don’t want to worry about your luggage getting lost THEN DON’T CHECK IT ON THE PLANE. Given the cost to check suitcases, you are better off planning ahead and shipping your clothes or other items to your destination. If you pack wrapped gifts, they are most likely going to get unwrapped. TSA has carte blanche to go through your luggage and if something is wrapped, they will unwrap it. Either ship gifts or pack them unwrapped and wrap when you get to the destination. Better yet, just give gift cards or cash. If your grandson wants the Dr. Dre Headphones, just give him the cash to buy them. Do you REALLY need to see the look on his face when he opens up the gift? Yes, he might end up spending the money on pot but then you can take comfort in knowing that you helped him get what he truly wanted.
Make sure your carry-on is stocked with fully charged phones and video game devices. Have plenty of snacks for the kids and don’t skimp on the diapers. Every time I see a frantic parent in an airport asking for a diaper from a fellow parent I want to call CPS. How in the world are parents not completely prepared with a stockpile of diapers and an extra set of clothes?!? I don’t care if little Timmy is almost potty trained. Trust me, he’s gonna crap his pants in the airport.
If your delay is going to be for 3 hours or more, find the executive club lounge for the airline which you are flying and purchase a one-day pass. You’ll get free soft drinks, snacks, wi-fi and VERY comfortable seats. Most of them now have a kid’s area where they can play video games and watch TV behind sound-proof glass. They also have a bar and hot food for sale. You’ve already made the stupid decision to travel on a busy day. Start making smart choices. Suck it up, pay the price, grab a drink in comfort and keep your stress level low during the flight delay.
If you are getting a rental car during the holidays, don’t assume that because you confirmation number you will automatically have a car. Rental companies will sell cars until the lot is empty – they’re not necessarily going to wait for you. They also over book to compensate for no-shows. Be sure that the agencies have your flight info. If you stated in your reservation that you will pick up the car at 3:00 PM and your flight is delayed, your car might go to someone else. Definitely call the rental company and let them know that your flight is delayed but you will be there and will pick up your car later in the day. Also, consider making a second car reservation in case the first agency sells out of cars. Most agencies will allow you completely pre-pay for the car reservation which will mean that they will hold the car for you but these fees are generally non-refundable. So, if you don’t show within a certain amount of time, they can not only forfeit your reservation but forfeit any refunds as well. Knowledge is power – find out what the rental company’s policy is regarding guaranteeing your reservation. Yelling at the agent at the counter and telling them that they are jerks for giving away “your” car isn’t going to help your situation. Once their shift ends, they’ll be getting in their own car, driving home and regaling their families with stories about the indignant assholes that were upset because the company ran out of cars. Don’t be the indignant asshole.
DON’T TRAVEL SICK:
Take control of your health and life. If you are dealing with an illness, then cancel the trip and take it easy at home. The holidays happen every year and given that stores now sell Xmas crap as early as September, the next holiday season will arrive before you know it. Nobody needs to hear Sneezy Sally suffer. Do everyone a favor and postpone the trip. Wait – What? Your kids were looking forward to the trip?? Well then, it looks like they are about to encounter the first of many disappointments that will happen in life. They’ll get over it. Don’t go on the trip simply because you want to be Parent-of-the-Year. You lost the nomination anyway when you went begging for diapers in the airport. Oh what? Your mother-in-law told you that she was looking forward to seeing her son and grandkids and now she is disappointed that you cancelled? Just tell her that you’re disappointed she isn’t being more understanding. Maybe a little family argument will make it feel more like the holidays.
While the holidays are notorious for stressful travel, think about taking this advice year round. Don’t be stupid when you travel: plan ahead, pack productively and be smart enough to know when you should just stay home.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain
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