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7 Ways to Win This Holiday Travel Season

man holding presents
Allianz - man holding presents

Holidays are a fun and festive time of year, but they are also extremely busy. When you add air, car, train or cruise travel on top of that stress, it can quickly become something you end up enduring rather than enjoying. Before you get caught in the holiday whirlwind, take a moment to consider these seven strategies for surviving and thriving this holiday travel season.

1. Target Tuesdays and Wednesdays for Flights

The cheapest days of the week for travel are consistently Tuesday and Wednesday. If you can, try to book your flights three to four months out, targeting these two days for arrival and departure. This can save you a significant amount of money, which you can use to make your travel more comfortable by upgrading to a bigger seat, purchasing early check-in or early boarding, or even buying a more comfortable pair of headphones. While such splurges may not be practical during regular travel, they can make a positive difference during the busier holiday times, and a savvy travel schedule built around cheaper travel days will make it affordable.

2. Ship Presents to Your Destination Ahead of Time

Allianz - Christmas Gifts

Not only are baggage fees ridiculous, but you also cannot bring wrapped presents on a flight because of government travel regulations. Save the hassle and ship your gifts ahead of time. You can get a more affordable shipping rate if you choose a slower surface option, and wrapped presents survive the journey in a shipping box better than in a suitcase. For more tips on how to do so, check out this article on shipping and packing gifts. You can also use Amazon's free shipping if you are traveling within the United States, and bring your holiday bags and tissue paper in your carry-on bag.

3. Pack Black and Dark-Colored Clothes

Everyone wants to pack light, but this is often the hardest advice to follow, especially during the holidays. To meet the goal of bringing only a carry-on bag onto the plane, lay out two days of clothes in all black, or another neutral color like dark brown or dark gray. Add two or three small accessories in festive, holiday colors, then zip the carry-on bag closed. The good news is that, during the holidays, you are typically staying at someone's home, or a hotel that has a laundry service. Take advantage of that, and save yourself the headache of lost luggage from a missed connection or weather problems.

4. Create an Atmosphere of Zen With Your Favorite Things

Allianz - Tablet Airplane

Holiday travel is notoriously loud, stressful and congested. Come prepared with some books already downloaded to your devices, or magazines you like in hand. Have some movies up and ready to go. Be proactive in your preparation, and plan on tuning out the chaos during your travel time. Do not count on the plane having a good WiFi connection, even if they promise one.

5. Book the Rental Early and Confirm the Day Before

Due to increased demand, rental car companies tend to play fast and loose with their reservations during this time of year. If you find yourself in need of a rental, try to book it early, and call to confirm with the rental desk the day before. This second part may seem like an unnecessary step, but it is critical. The email receipt of reservation is generated by the corporate booking system, as the cars themselves are managed by employees at individual rental locations, who must navigate the supply and demand fluctuations that happen during peak holiday travel. You will save yourself time and frustration if you ensure you have confirmation from both.

6. Explore Parking Alternatives

Allianz - Shuttle Bus

Not only are airports incredibly congested around this time of year, airport parking, even in economy lots, gets much more expensive. Don't park if you can avoid doing so. Instead, embrace your travel as an opportunity to try out a new car or shuttle service for more reliable and comfortable mode of transportation. Many of these services even offer discounts to first time users. Or, rent a car, as a single day car rental is more affordable than leaving your car at the airport for days on end.

No matter how prepared you are, holiday travel will involve some stress. But if you take the time to think, plan and anticipate some of the real problems that might arise, you can eliminate much of the pain and free yourself to enjoy the best of what this time of year has to offer.

7. Consider Travel Insurance

Nothing dampens your holiday spirit more than lost luggage, a missed connection, or an unexpected hotel cost for an overnight you did not ask for or anticipate. Travel insurance is quite inexpensive, and goes a long way in making it easier to dealing with the unexpected during the busy holiday travel season. There are some rules and restrictions, of course, so be sure to read the policy clearly.

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