Heading out soon for a holiday vacation on a cruise ship or a land trip? The travel agency group Travel Leaders has some tips and advice for making your trip less stressful. Check out these 12 tips:
1. Make a checklist and check it twice. Before any trip, it’s important to make a checklist of essential items like chargers for electronic devices or prescription medications. It’s easy to forget the items you use every day and you don’t want to spend your trip seeking replacements. Add to your list a portable battery charger with a USB connector as “back up” to your backup.
2. Bring digital and hard copies of identification cards and papers. It’s a good idea to have color photocopies and digital copies of all important identification documents, including your passport, boarding passes, front and back of credit cards and health insurance information. Also have extra ID photos cropped to passport size in case you have to order a replacement at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Be sure to pack all paper copies or flash drives in a separate location for extra safe-keeping.
3. Label prescription medication. In addition to packing enough prescriptions to last your entire trip, bring extra in case you come home later. Keep your medications in their original labeled containers, then place in a clear plastic bag. While you’re at it, pack a mini first-aid kit for minor medical emergencies.
4. Check-in online. Airlines generally allow passengers to check in online 24 hours in advance, with a cutoff a couple of hours before boarding time. So make sure you’ve checked in well before you’re set to head to the airport. Have your boarding pass, paper or digital version, within easy reach, along with your ID, to save time as you approach the security checkpoint.
5. Keep valid identification at hand. Children under 18 are not required to provide identification when traveling with a companion, but passengers age 18 and older must show valid ID at the airport security checkpoint. Since most ID, like a driver’s license, has an expiration date, double-check that your ID will not expire before your return trip home.
6, Double check your baggage. Overhead space in airplanes will be at a premium during the holiday travel season, especially as people bring gifts for friends and family or return home with gifts they’ve received. So when preparing to pack your bags, it’s crucial to check in advance whether your luggage meets the airline’s size and weight restrictions for checked baggage and carry-ons.
7. Save gift wrapping for later. Speaking of gifts, wrapped packages are screened like any other item. So, to allow for an easy transition to the gate, carry your gifts unwrapped through security. Consider packing pre-cut paper and a small roll of tape so you can wrap them after you pass through security or when you reach your destination. Or, better yet, ship packages in advance.
8. Keep 3-1-1 in mind. The Transportation Security Administration allows each passenger one quart-size bag of liquids and gels, including toothpaste, gel deodorant, and lotions. Each item must be 3.4 ounces or less. Medication, infant formula and juices for infants or toddlers are exempt from the rule, but keep them separate from the items in your one-quart bag.
9. Be prepared to take laptops out and shoes off during airport security. Laptop computers must be removed from their carrying cases and submitted separately for screening. (Small and portable items, including smartphones, tablets and portable games, don’t need to be removed from their cases.) At many airports, you’ll have to place your shoes and belt in the plastic bin that goes through the X-ray screening. The only exceptions are for passengers who are 75 and older, children 12 and under, and travelers approved for Global Entry or TSA Precheck.
10. Leave early. From traffic that may be heavier than usual and hard-to-find parking spots, to longer lines for security screenings, you’ll ease your stress if you give yourself extra wiggle room in your schedule, whether traveling by train, plane or automobile. Arrive at the airport 75 minutes prior to departure for domestic flights and three hours before international flights.
11. Know your emergency contacts. In addition to contact information for next of kin or a close friend when traveling internationally, bring the contact information for the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate at your overseas destination.
12. Put your travel agent on speed dial. Bring the email and cell phone number of your travel agent with you, and provide your travel agent with your personal contact information, as well as pertinent health and travel insurance information. Your travel agent can rearrange your itinerary should you decide to extend your trip, or if there’s an emergency.