With Christmas and New Year’s fast approaching, we are all feeling the pre-holiday scramble to get organized. While planning for the holidays can be a hair-pulling experience, travel expert Julie Loffredi reveals some tips and tricks that can even help procrastinators feel ready for the trip ahead.
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1. Leave off-peak
If you are heading out on the road, try to leave during off-peak times, if possible. An early morning or late night departure can help avoid a big jam. Also, try to avoid December 23rd – one of the busiest days.
While traffic is inevitable this time of year, there is some good news for drivers — gas prices are low, so you won’t be hit too hard at the pump this holiday.
Tip: Use apps likeWaze, a community-based traffic navigation app, to get real-time traffic updates. The app shares traffic problems ahead, gives drivers alternate routes and estimated arrival times.
2. Download Apps
Traveling by air? Download weather and airline apps to track weather conditions and possible delays.
Tip: If you get the heads up that your flight is cancelled, act fast and get first in line to reschedule.
3. Hunt for Deals
Believe it or not, there’s still time to get last-minute deals. While airfare is more expensive, hotels (especially in less popular holiday destinations) tend to offer lower rates at the end of December.
Still have no holiday travel plans and just want an escape? There are plenty of great deals, especially in Europe. Check tour companies and comparison sites, you may be surprised that a dream vacation may be within reach.
Tip: If you still need a flight, check smaller airports for better ticket prices. For deals, check out apps likeHopper and low-fare planning calendars.
4. Redeem Credit Card Rewards
Last-minute travelers should take a look at their credit card rewards program and see how many miles or points they’ve accrued.It could be enough to pay for that last-minute flight.
Tip: Check out theVenture Card. I’ve teamed up with Capital One this holiday season to talk about its benefits. So what makes it special? You can earn 2X the miles on every purchase. Then, you can redeem those miles for any travel-related expense — flights, hotels, even Uber rides!
5. Ship the Gifts!
If you are traveling by air for the holidays, consider shipping gifts ahead of time. You don’t want to get wacked with extra fees, or for presents to be destroyed during transit.
If you do bring along gifts in a carry-on or checked baggage,TSA suggests using a gift bag instead of traditional wrapping paper to simplify the screening process of gifts.
If you must bring gifts, I’d be more inclined to pack up gift cards. They take up less space than a hefty wrapped gift and fit snug in any carry-on.
6. Prep the Kids
Give kids a play-by-play on what they’ll expect during your holiday trip. Answer questions ahead of time, like: How long will it take? Will we make stops along the way? What will we do to pass the time? This will help make kids know exactly what to expect.
Tip: Plan games or bring toys to keep kids occupied during long road trips.
7. Schedule Downtime
Travel can be stressful! Remember to plan some downtime in that itinerary to prevent burnout.
Tip: And try to add some fun into traveling! Download a new audio book or music to help pass the time.
With some fast planning and the right attitude, holiday travel doesn’t always have to be an “are we there yet?” experience.
Julie is a television news journalist and writes a ton about travel. Her tips have been shared on the TODAY Show and Fox News Channel, among other networks. Julie’s tips and stories can also be found online at Travel + Leisure, The Travel Channel, USA TODAY, ABC News, Huffington Post and others. Find her on Twitter @JulieLoffredi.