The holidays are finally upon us. If you're traveling for Thanksgiving or Christmas, now is the time to get prepared for busy airports, long lines, and the frustration that can come from flying during the busiest time of year. Re-read our guide to cutting down on airport delays, then swing back here for two more companion tips that I think are crucial to flying during the holidays.
The Importance of Being Early
Arriving at the airport early is the number-one most important thing you can do when flying during the holidays. If you miss your flight because your tire goes flat, you encounter an unexpected traffic jam, or you get into a car accident on the way to the airport, your airline may invoke the so-called "flat tire rule," which allows you to take a later flight without penalty. However, you can't count on an understanding attitude from your airline.
Many flights are completely full around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's, so if you miss your scheduled flight, it may not be easy to get on another flight in a reasonable amount of time. And because car trouble is essentially your fault (at least more than it is the airline's fault), the airline doesn't have much incentive to go out of its way to accommodate you. Bumped passengers and travelers who must be rescheduled due to maintenance problems (or other issues within the airline's control) will likely have priority over you.
Therefore, it is essential to arrive at the airport early this year. Most airlines recommend checking in 90 minutes early for domestic flights, and two hours early for international flights. For holiday travel, however, it's wise to arrive even earlier. Expect to encounter long lines at check-in and security, and plan accordingly.
Plan Ahead for Parking
Most travelers are already aware of the importance of early arrival at the airport, but an oft-overlooked aspect of travel can tack on lots of time before you even enter the terminal building: airport parking.
According to Tom Lombardi of AirportParkingReservations.com, "A lot of people take it for granted that they'll be able to just pull into an airport parking lot, find a space and go. They buy their plane tickets, make their hotel reservations, and leave plenty of time to go through security, only to arrive at the airport and discover the economy lots are full. Or even worse, they have no place to park. Lots can fill up fast—and they will for sure at peak travel times like Thanksgiving and Christmas."
There are a few ways to avoid being stuck without a parking spot. The best idea is avoid bringing your car entirely and take a taxi, public transportation, or a shuttle, or to arrange for a friend or family member to drop you off.
If you must drive, however, consider reserving a parking spot in advance through AirportParkingReservations.com or Park Ride Fly USA. Park Ride Fly is currently offering a 10 percent holiday discount for travelers who pre-book three or more days.
By planning ahead and arriving early, you'll eliminate many of the stress and hassles that can come with flying during the holidays.