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10 Ways to Take the Hassel Out of Holiday Air Travel
By Lynne Christen

Looking forward to going home for the holidays, but dreading the hassle of holiday air travel? Try these 10 tips from a former flight attendant and present-day leisure travel addict to take some of the stress out of holiday travel:

1. If you have not already booked your flight, it is time to do so...pronto! Begin by contacting a travel agent. A travel agent can quickly search all available flight schedules and provide you with a list of choices that work best for you.

2. Have a Plan B and a Plan C. Winter weather, mechanical problems, and crew delays wreak havoc with airline schedules during holiday travel. Stash the list you printed of all flight options in your carry-on bag and program the reservations number into your cell phone in advance.

3. Watch your weight. The checked baggage weight limit is currently 50 lbs. per bag and most airlines now charge for both a first and second bag (for domestic flights). Overweight penalties are costly. Weigh your packed bag at home while there is time to lighten up.

4. Become a carry-on traveler. You are allowed one carry-on bag not exceeding 45 linear inches and one smaller personal item, such as a purse or briefcase. Place toiletries in the ubiquitous TSA 3-1-1 baggie (3 oz. bottles or less of liquids, gels and creams in a 1 qt. clear zippered bag and 1 bag per person).

5. Select seats between the rear of the aircraft and the over-wing area. Overhead space fills up fast. Airlines typically board aircrafts by zones from the rear forward. If you are sitting in the first rows of the coach section, there may be no room left in overhead space for your carry-on bag by the time your zone is called. If you are comfortable with safety responsibilities, request exit row seats for maximum in-flight comfort.

6. Allow extra time for city traffic, crowded parking lots, long check-in lines and longer security lines. Arrive at the airport early. Baggage check-in closes thirty minutes prior to flight time and your bag won't be accepted. Oversold flights are common on heavy travel days and assigned seats will not be held if you fail to check in as required.

7. Expedite security clearance and ship all gifts to your destination. Don't take wrapped gifts. If the security scan of a wrapped gift is questionable, it will be unwrapped for further examination, causing a delay. Print a list of the latest prohibited items from the TSA website and double check carry-on and checked bags for potential problem items.

8. Bring small comforts. Airline food is practically non-existent and delays can add hours to your flight time and airport waiting time. Bring healthy treats and purchase bottled water after clearing security. Don't forget reading material and an inflatable pillow and lightweight travel blanket in case you are stuck in an airport or onboard a delayed flight for hours.

9. Plan ahead to juggle travel with small children. Bring non-messy snacks, bottles of juice or formula, a sufficient stash of diapers and a change of clothes or two. Surprise treats, books and small toys help keep airport and airplane boredom at bay.

10. Keep your sense of humor. Spread holiday cheer with patience, smiles and kind words for fellow travelers and airline employees. Remember the reason for the season.


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