Worry-free travel during the holidays? Uhh…

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Traveling during the holidays can be, let’s face it, disastrous. Between anxious spouses, excited children and unexplained travel delays, it is, quite possibly, the most dreaded part of the holiday season. Here’s the thing, there are ways around holiday travel stress – we promise.

Before you even start thinking about your holiday travel plans, prepare for it. Some or all of these tips could really help you change the course of your trip.

Book as early as possible. You miss out on the numerous flash sales that top airlines promote throughout the holiday season, but you will have a seat at a reasonable price. Don’t chance it, miss out on the deal and then pay way too much for a ticket because you book late in the game.

Avoid peak travel dates. This will help you two fold. On one end, you’ll keep a lot more money in your wallet. Even extending your trip by one extra day could mean saving $50-$100 on a round-trip flight. Also, you’ll be missing a bulk of the traffic. Yes, thousands of people travel over the holidays. Those people pretty much travel the same days to sink their trip with school vacations and taking the least amount of PTO. If you have a bit of flexibility, take advantage of it. The time you spend in lines could shrink greatly.

Leave for your flight early. Charge up your tablet and smart phone, grab an extra crossword puzzle book and stock up on old issues of People Magazine, then settle in. The earlier you get to the airport, the less you need to stress about missing your flight or corralling your kids through security. Once you get to your gate, get settled in for whatever time you have to wait. The waiting may be boring, but it’s worth it to not have to worry about missing that important flight.

Get travel insurance. Okay, a great comprehensive travel insurance plan isn’t going to protect you from the onset of travel mishaps, but it can help to reduce the stress you feel during them. If you aren’t worrying about how you are going to pay for an extra hotel room or airline fees for a change of flight, you’ll be amazed at how relaxed you can actually be. Travel insurance is there for you to fall back on, don’t ignore it.

Use your mobile tools. If you have a tablet or smartphone you keep glued to your hand, you should really look into the apps available from your airline. For instance, Southwest has a smartphone app that allows you to check in, check flight status and show your boarding pass. If you aren’t into apps, but want to avoid the lines at the check in counter, try the self-service kiosks. Nearly all airlines are equipped with those now.

Pack wisely. If you are going for a quick trip without any gear in tow (gifts or little ones), you should really consider traveling with a simple carry on. You will be amazed at how fast you can get in and out of an airport. If you are traveling with little ones, or tons of gifts for your extended family, be sure to pack the essentials. Limit the unnecessary to keep the luggage light and pre-send anything possible. The less you have to worry about the day of the trip the better.

Know carry on regulations. It may sounds simple, but so many people ignore the carry on regulations until they are forced to face them. You do not want a frustrated TSA agent telling you what’s allowed and what’s not as you are traveling through security. Be aware of what you are bringing with you on the plane. You’re fellow travelers won’t tell you “good job” if you get through security without a hitch, but they may let you know how they feel if you don’t.

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