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As if traveling in this so-called “new normal” wasn’t hassle enough, the upcoming holiday travel season comes with its very own special pain. Here are a few holiday travel tips to help you keep your sanity during that “most wonderful time of the year.”

Planning is your friend. 

If you already know in the summer where you want to go during the holidays, then by all means go ahead and book your trip, especially if it’s overseas. You’ll have a much better selection of flights and seats and, oh, prices, too. Nowadays it’s rare to score a choice fare at the last minute, not to mention you might find yourself in the middle seat of a red-eye flight.

Pack a carry-on.

It’s nice to avoid baggage check fees, and even nicer not to have to wait at the carrousel in baggage claim along with a couple hundred other passengers. If you don’t have gifts and—lucky you—heavy winter clothing, make sure your carry-on meets those standards. You will definitely be asked to check the bag at the gate if you try to sneak something big onboard, which risks it being left behind (it’s happened.)

Check only one bag.

Truth is, most of us will need to check at least one bag due to the nature of travel during the holidays (yep, those gifts and heavy winter clothing.) Try to keep it down to one bag—airlines can and will make you pay a steep fee for the second bag. Pack judiciously and make good use of the 50-pound limit—that’s still a lot of stuff! Make a pile first, then edit at least a couple of times before you start packing.

About those gifts.

Gone are the days of being instant Santa: the TSA doesn’t look kindly on gift wrap and they WILL tear open that origami-style wrapping you spent a fortune on if they feel the package is suspicious. And remember to pack valuable gifts such as electronics and jewelry in your carry-on. Consider buying gifts online and having them shipped, or even shipping them ahead of time via UPS, USPS or FedEX.

Leave an hour earlier than you think you should.

When they say three hours before international flights and 1.5 before domestic, they mean it. Airports are a mess, flights are a mess, and there’s a mess everywhere. It’s winter, which may mean delays due to ice, snow, and traffic—you get the picture. And that’s just on the way to the airport. Weather can also cause arrival delays and departures, so bring your patience and a good book.

Peak travel season means peak infection season.

Colds and flu and our friend COVID (and alllll its relatives)  love to travel from person to person, especially in tight quarters like airplanes and highly trafficked areas like airports. Think of all the people who have touched the handrails on the escalators, the buttons on the elevator and the tray table in front of you… Yep, that many… You might want to help yourself with a vaccine and a small bottle of hand sanitizer (and use it liberally.) Think about taking sanitizing wipes and giving the armrests and tray tables a good swipe before settling into the seat. Hey, it can’t hurt.

Long flight? Str-e-e-e-tch!

Sometimes it takes a cross-country trip—or even going overseas—to enjoy a family holiday. If yours is more than a couple hours long, do yourself, your legs and your veins a favor by getting up once every hour to walk around and stretching your body. Think about compression socks—they’re not quite as ugly as they used to be! Here are a few more tips that might come in handy during a long-haul flight.

And always, take along peace of mind for yourself and your family.

Trip insurance is a must during the holidays, as bad weather is a very real factor that can cause delays and cancellations. But, more importantly, an emergency medical evacuation membership can ensure that, should anything happen to you or your family, you will be flown home to the care of your family doctor and your home network. It’s affordable peace of mind that is priceless should you need it!

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