Spiraling airport lines, bustling crowds and Christmas carols played on repeat -- we know these as some of the less savory highlights of holiday travel.
The hassle is often magnified as many immigrants and travelers are jetting off internationally during December.
Below are ten tips to save you time, inconvenience and money when getting from your home to your destination -- and back again -- this holiday season.
Apps for Airport Convenience
Nowadays there is an app for nearly everything airport-related, from locating good cafes and shops while you wait for your flight with GateGuru to finding affordable airport parking with iFlyPro.
And if you can’t find your flight information -- or the view of it is obfuscated by a raging hoard of travelers -- simply check FlightBoard for more information.
Get Free ‘Wi-Fly’
Wouldn’t your flight be so much more convenient if you had ‘wi-fly’ on board and didn’t have to foot a big bill, upwards of $30 for it. Fear not, wi-fi fiends: with a VPN (virtual private network) you can bypass the paywall. Lifehacker provides a guide on how to log in on board.
Frequent Flier Mile (FFM) Programs
Especially for those flying internationally, it’s a wise move to enroll in one of these free programs with your airline or one of its partners.
For example, if you are flying Lufthansa, you can enroll in United Airline’s FFM program and give them your membership number. Even if you have already booked your flight, it’s not too late to call in with it.
Consider also signing up for a FFM credit card.
Most U.S. airlines such as Delta or United offer a year’s free membership, reduced wait times, free bag check-ins, and 30,000 miles to boot -- that can later equate to a free international trip in the off-season!
Non-Americans living in the U.S. can apply for one of these cards if they have a social security number; otherwise many international airlines such as AirBerlin and British Airways offer cards with similar deals.
Travel at an Unconventional Day or Time
If you’re willing to brave a bright and early morning flight, you will often be rewarded with shorter security lines and a more likely punctual departure as there is less air traffic then.
Go by the “travel hungry and tired” rule, as many people aren’t keen to take off during meal times and late at night.
Contrary to popular assumption, flights on Christmas Day are actually more expensive -- except for when you are traveling TO the U.S. And if you fly within or back to Europe in January, flights are usually at their lowest of the year, according to Skyscanner.
When Your Book Matters
Contrary to common wisdom that the more seats available equals cheaper fares, you will often pay more if you book your flight too far in advance.
Too early can hurt too, though. According to TransferWise, 12.6 percent of people book their holiday travel in the last week (some 1.4 million people). On average they lose $322 each compared to the best possible price - that’s a cumulative $451.2 million.
For international travel, two months out is a good rule of thumb. FareCompare has also found that you can snag the best deals at on a Tuesday afternoon, according to August 2016 figures. But if you want the best prices to fall into your lap, you can simply set an airfare alert for your desired destination.
Customs Lines Made Easy
Hopping across the pond over the holidays from the U.S. to the U.K.? Or vice-versa?
We all know how annoying those long customs lines are after our already long flights. But now both countries have partnered up for an expanded “Global Entry” program, allowing those who apply and qualify to simply scan their passports and cut through customs, rather than wait upwards of two hours.
Prepare Your Phone
If you’re hopping to another country over the holidays, buying a local SIM card will of course help you avoid steep roaming charges.
Instead of sleepily wandering around your destination airport or city hunting for one, you can buy a sim card online in advance. The OneSimCard Data and Roam SIM includes coverage in over 170 countries and saves you upwards of 85 percent.
Know Your Rights
When flying to a different country, even for just a layover, we often aren’t aware of the rules and regulations when something goes south. FlyerRights.org, the largest consumer airline organization, breaks down what to do if you’re stranded, treated poorly or just confused about customs at a local airport. Now surprisingly, they also offer an Android and iPhone app.
Last Minute Accommodation
Decided to opt for your own room rather than sleep on your relative’s air mattress?
If you’re booking in advance, according to TransferWise, you risk added up to a quarter more to your hotel bill. The app HotelTonight can offer even better deals in popular places around the world.
Moving money to or from the U.S. for the holidays? Don't get stung with a bad exchange rate.
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