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Essential Holiday Air Travel Tips

Heading out of town for Christmas is hands down one of the best and one worst parts of the season. Bad weather, endless lines, and stressed out airline staff can really put a damper on your good spirits if you don’t prepare for them. So we asked our flight crew friends to share their secrets to ensure you have a smooth trip this time of year

Remember that classic scene in Home Alone when the family is racing through Chicago O’Hare to “Run, Run Rudolph”?

Of course you do.

Do you want to recreate it? Of course you don’t.

So to help you avoid a similar fate, and all other highly likely blunders that await the unprepared Holiday traveler, we ‘ve gathered together these tips from a roster of current and former flight attendants.

1. This one should be a given, but give yourself lots of extra time. The suggested 60 minutes for domestic and two hours for international are not going to…wait for it…fly this time of year. Checking in online is also an absolute must, especially if you’re going carry-on (which you should try to do, since most of the major airlines are charging for checked baggage now).

2. Pack your carry-on carefully. If you’re bringing gifts, don’t wrap them in advance because security may have to open them up before they let you through. That means a double waste of time.

Also, even if it’s obviously a toy to you, NERF guns (which apparently are all the rage with the kiddos this year) won’t be allowed on board, so check anything you think might even slightly resemble a weapon or other prohibited item.

And for the love of all things good, have your laptop and liquids ready before you get to the front of the line.

3. Airport lounges are worth the spend. They’re where the cookies and comfy seats live, and generally where the screaming babies don’t. You can leave them and return a few times within a certain number of hours, so if your flight gets delayed, or breaks, or whatever, you can go back to sipping scotch in peace while everyone else fights for a spot on the cold, hard floor.

4. Window seats mean sleep. Yes, they mean you’re crammed up against a wall, but no one will feel the need to lap dance across you while your eyes are closed, which is kind of nice. 

5. For longer flights, bring your own food. Let’s be honest, the stuff you pay an arm and a leg for on most domestic flights is pretty bad. You really can carry on whatever food you’d like providing its not liquid and you’re not flying internationally. Seriously, you can bring a baked ham if you want to.

Note: This may or may not make you some friends on the flight. 

6. ‘Tis the season for giving, so it’s totally appropriate to bring flight crews and airport agents festive treats. Chocolates, cookies, doughnuts, WINE. It will mean that an open seat in first class is your new seat in first class. 

Or at the very least you’re likely to get free booze.

7. If you’re flying for more than a couple of hours, night cream is your best friend. Slather it on the minute the flight takes off and you won’t look like a haggard old shoe upon landing. 

We know this isn’t about saving time, but it’s definitely about saving face, which is probably just as important.

8. While flirting with airport bartenders will likely score you a free festive beverage or two, gate agents are particularly on guard against letting drunkies on the plane these days. They’ll have no problem denying you boarding if you appear to be intoxicated, so save the celebrations for the arrivals lounge if you really must get hammered in the airport.

9. When you do make it onto the aircraft (and you will because you’re classy), stow your bags above, but hang onto your coat. Stuffing it into the overhead bin will make it harder for flight attendants to fit baggage up there, which means potential delays in take-off. 

They’ll fit your outerwear into the empty spaces once everyone else is boarded, or you can put them under the seat in front of you. So do them a holiday solid and make their lives a bit easier. 

10. Airport arrivals will be guaranteed scenes of mayhem for the next couple of weeks, so fill your ride in on this little secret: wait in a nearby lot with a cell phone.

Circling around the giant landmass that is the airport will turn anyone into a Grinch, so tell your loved ones to take advantage of the free waiting areas where they can belt out their favourite carols in peace while they wait for your call to say you’ve landed. 

It’s a much nicer option than fighting with the orange-vested police, trust us.

Now go and have happy and safe holiday travels.  


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Lydia Nutbrown