Let’s face it, holiday travel can be a bit cray cray. At times it can feel like the entire world is on one, giant pilgrimage. Emotions run high, weather delays crop up and airports buzz with travellers, young and old, who are all trying to get to that special destination. To be honest, it can be overwhelming. For some, the solution is to avoid holiday travel entirely. If you’re one of those people: staaaawwwwp. I’ve made some of my BEST travel memories during the holidays and really hope you do too. Having said that, as a full-time travel blogger I do have some travel hacks (tips, tricks and tools) up my sleeve. Lucky for you guys, I’ve been asked by travel search engine KAYAK to spill the beans. They’ve asked a group of us globetrotting Canadians to share our best travel hacks for holiday travel. Here are a few of mine…
1. Timing Is Key When Booking Holiday Travel — Most people assume they’ll get better rates if they wait until last minute or if they book months ahead, but I’ve found the sweet spot to be around one month in advance especially when it comes to travelling during Christmas. That being said, I know how difficult it is to predict the least expensive times to fly so I highly recommend using tools like KAYAK’s Holiday Travel Tracker when deciding when to book. Don’t have time to hunt down a deal? Sign up for their Price Alerts and they’ll let you know when prices change for the flight/hotel you want by sending you a message via email or phone!
2. Plan Connections Carefully — Yes, it can be cheaper to fly non-direct, but check out the weather predictions at your connecting airport. If it’s a top weather-delayed hub (one that gets a lot of snow/hurricanes/fog — like JFK, ORD, SFO, YYZ, MIA), try to avoid it during holiday travel or you may be ringing in the new year with a group of new friends!
3. Don’t Be A Scrooge, Pack Those Presents! — Many people leave the gifts at home to save on room or baggage fees. Although this may be ok for regular travel, it can make the holidays extra stressful once you arrive at your destination. No one wants to show up for Christmas empty-handed or worse: run around looking for the perfect gift last minute (which will usually set you back more than those baggage fees anyways). Packing tip: roll your clothes to create more room and don’t wrap gifts as security may unwrap them. If you really don’t want to lug presents in your suitcase, consider shipping them in advance.
4. Be Flexible With Flight Dates During The Holidays — Having a bit of flexibility will save you a lot of cash. For US flights, the Wednesday before and Sunday after Thanksgiving are usually crazy expensive so try to avoid those by a day or two (check out last year’s trends in this guide). The Flex Search on KAYAK will show you exactly how much money you’ll save by being flexible with your dates (up to three days on either end). And if you can, book flights on Christmas Day or New Years Day: I’ve personally found those to be the most economical.
5. Fly With Your Holiday Dinner — Yup, you can pack your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner in your carry-on. Well, most of it anyways (even turkeys are allowed into the US – just make sure you pack enough ice!) I always check the Can I Bring website to make sure everything is in line with the regulations when flying to the states. Best to do the same with international flights. So go ahead and take that holiday feast to your friends/family. Skipping town and escaping to a warm destination? A homemade pie may be just the thing you need for a dose of holiday cheer.
6. Keep An Open Mind And Be Spontaneous — If your goal during the holidays is to travel for leisure (vs. visiting family), check out the Explore tool on KAYAK. Just plug in your home airport and see all the fab places you can fly to within your budget! Bonus: you can even filter by flight length which is a great feature especially for those travelling with kids, elderly or those with special needs.
7. Splurge On VIP Airport Lounge Access — Don’t think twice, just do it. Holidays are the busiest times at airports so these lounges will be the key to your sanity. What most people don’t know is that you can get access to the VIP lounges even if you’re flying in economy. How? By flashing American Express at many airports (their Centurion Lounges are pretty amazing) or using LoungeBuddy to purchase a one-time pass (sometimes as low as $25). Access gets you free WiFi, drinks, food and some even have showers and sleep rooms! Totally worth every single penny in my opinion.
Ok, I have a million more tips but the ones listed above are my fave for holiday travel so I’ll stop there. Now it’s your turn. Tell me how YOU make holiday travel more pleasant via comments below. And if you’re on social media, be sure to share your travel hacks using the hashtag #KAYAKTravelHacker. Ready to start holiday travel planning? Head to KAYAK for the deals — I just found one to London at the same price I paid 10 years ago!!
A huge thanks to KAYAK for sponsoring this post so I could share my list of best travel hacks for holiday travel with you guys! Check out their site as they also have some great hacks to help you with where, when and how to travel.