- Chidozie Uzoezie
How to Travel Hassle-Free During Christmas and New Year
Christmas is fast approaching and so is the New Year. It's that time of the year with an inevitable need for lots of travelling around. And for most travellers, there's also an additional burden of excess luggage. Yes, there's a certain special joy that comes with travelling for Christmas and New Year. But let’s face it, it can also be very stressful and frustrating travelling at this time of the year, especially, if you didn't plan ahead.
Sometimes, the real joy of travelling during Christmas and New Year comes only on the other side of your journey, if you followed the rules. The good thing, however, is that there are a few things you can do to avoid or at least, reduce the stress associated with air travel within this period. Check out the following tips we've put together to help you travel hassle-free during the forthcoming Christmas and New Year.
Check in Online
The assumption here is that you have already bought your flight ticket(s) if you plan to be travelling around by air this season. If you haven’t, we suggest you do that as soon as possible, the sooner, the better. And if you have already, you can relax and enjoy the rest of the tips.
Who wouldn't like to just walk straight into the boarding hall on arrival at the airport? Well, thanks to technology and innovation, we now can! Almost every airline around the world now offers online check-in option for their passengers. For me, online check-in is one of the most useful tools for air travel passengers, the only time I don’t use it is when it's not available for any reason.
In addition to choosing your preferred seat (and avoiding the dreaded middle seat), online check-in allows you to also check in your luggage, pay for extra luggage (if you have any) and even print your baggage tags. If you are travelling as a family and would like to seat together on the plane, then it's necessary you check in online, otherwise, the check-in agent at the airport may inadvertently ‘scatter’ your family all over the plane. And I'm sure you don't want that. Families love to seat together, it helps them to bond while coordinating their itinerary.
The good thing (which can also be a bad thing) about checking in online is that you 'can afford' to arrive at the airport late (but please don’t). After checking in online, you can literally just walk into the boarding hall when you arrive at the airport. But it's not that simple! Even if you have checked in online, airlines would usually require you to be at the airport at least 40 minutes before your flight. But if you have luggage to check in or just drop off at the airport counter (who wouldn't have? After all, it's Christmas and New Year), you should arrive even earlier. Plus there's security queue to beat, so don't take anything for granted.
Pack Smart and Light
It's almost ridiculous and ironical that someone travelling for Christmas and/or New Year is being asked to pack smart and light? Yes, it is. But come to think of it, you're probably travelling for the first time in a long while, perhaps in a year or two or even more. But again, you're only travelling for Christmas and New Year and not for retirement or transfer of service. You don't have to uproot your house.
When you pack, begin with the essentials like your purse, wallet, credit cards, phones, medications (if necessary). If you have to, make a checklist to help you know what you have or haven't packed. You don't want to get to the airport and find out that you had forgotten your wallet or credit cards at home, that would be the beginning of your travel nightmares.
Pack so that your laptops, electronic devices and liquid items can be quickly and easily taken in and out of your luggage. This will not only facilitate your movement through airport security, but will also shorten the wait (and the frustration) for those behind you.
It is advisable to pack liquids and semi-liquids together in a clear plastic bag. Apart from making it easier to carry the items around, this will also ensure that the liquids do not accidentally open in transit and soil the rest of the items in your bag. This is another thing that can mess up your festive mood.
Whatever the reason for your travel is, pack only the items that are necessary for your trip and for your stay at your destinations. What is the need travelling with those winter coats when it is actually summer at your destination? If you are travelling with children, is it really necessary to pack all the dolls and teddy bears? Sometimes, the cost of carrying certain things is higher than the cost of actually buying them. Think smart!
The truth is that the more and heavier your luggage, the more money you will have to pay to your airline. Almost every airline now has a fee for almost everything including excess baggage and even carry-ons. The idea here is to avoid these fees, as much as possible, while giving yourself a memorable and stress-free travel experience.
For most air travellers, the nightmare starts with arriving at the airport late. Truly, no one wants to arrive at the airport too early and end up spending more time waiting in an airport terminal without seats. But another truth is that this isn’t the time of the year to be confident about your sense of punctuality and traffic flow. Christmas and New Year season can lead to unpredictable traffic bottlenecks everywhere, from your street to the highway, to airport roads, and even check-in queues and security lines at the airport.
Airlines usually advise you arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before your flight for international flights and 45 minutes before domestic flights. But arriving at the airport a lot earlier than advised by your airline will make a lot of sense and a world of difference.
Some airports are known for notoriously long queues with slow-moving families making their once-a-year holiday trips. Depending on the average traffic situation and airport proximity, leaving your house earlier with the target of arriving at your departure airport 45 minutes to 1 hour earlier than advised should be fine. Remember: To arrive early, you must leave early.
The idea is to do everything necessary so you do not miss your flight. If you do miss your flight, it might be next to impossible to get a seat on the next flight, if there is one. Purchasing new tickets or even rescheduling at this point will be very expensive. Airlines will take advantage of you, they always do.
Charge Your Mobile Devices
No matter how much time and effort you have put into planning your trips, holiday travels have a way of bringing out some nasty experiences. It's very important that your phone has some life in it at every point during your trip in case you need to urgently contact someone or somewhere. In fact, if you think you will need an extra battery, you probably will, especially if your trip involves multiple flights and long airport layovers. So put an extra battery or a power bank in your carry-on bag.
Perhaps, this is the most important tip even though it's coming last. Christmas and New Year season often comes with low visibility due to harmattan haze. Low visibility can cause major disruptions in airline and airport operations. Your flight may be delayed or even cancelled, and this might be in your best interest. Airlines hate low visibility as much as you do. Be patient with the airlines and don't yell at the airline's staff as they don't control the weather. Better late than never.
Travelling by air is not just the most reliable and the quickest way to get to your destination, it can often be the ONLY way. But air travel can also be a nightmare. However, we hope the few tips above can help make your travel less stressful and more enjoyable this season.
Enjoy your flights. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in advance from all of us at The Afritraveller.