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Top 7 Travel Tips for the Holidays: Make Memories You Want to Remember, Not Forget!

10/25/2021 | by Caroline Camp Harrison | Vacation Rentals

Just when it feels like things can’t get any crazier you realized we are about to embark on the craziest season of all… the holiday season! Don’t fret, we are here to offer you our top 10 travel tips for the holidays. Whether the holidays are the most magical exciting time for you to travel, or if you prefer cozying up with a good bottle of red and ugg boots next to the fire while deeming those that choose to travel during the holidays the bravest of the brave, we can help your trip be started stress-free and stay that way. Of course, until you get home and have to unpack… and then there are no tricks we have for getting over those going-back-to-work scaries! 

Traveling by plane, train, or automobile for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year or any of the celebrates in-between, we hope these tips help this chaotic season of travel become a coveted tradition.

Gone are the Trends of Holiday Travel’s Past… 

Holiday Travel Guide Infographic

The pandemic has changed the face of travel. Pre-pandemic Americans would book their holiday flights weeks if not months in advance. But due to the ever-changing landscape of travel restrictions, we will see a trend toward last-minute bookings. This “wait-and-see mentality” applies most heavily to international travel where Americans are being issued mandatory quarantines.

Many travelers are as comfortable with waiting for the unknown so there will be a surge in domestic travel in the coming months. This can already be seen with a high demand for car rentals that are only expected to surge even higher over the holidays. As well as the trend that we are seeing people book domestic holiday travel earlier than ever because they are finding that Vacation

Rental Homes are selling out fast! 

What does all this mean for you? Well, book now and prepare to pay more or miss out! The lower category accommodations sell our first. And while in these uncertain times more cancellations are happening, when those cancelations are being released at a higher rate as the holidays approach.

Vrbo, Airbnb, Tripadvisor, and Expedia are all reporting that home rental rates may be as much as 82% higher than what they were in 2019, according to Guesty

 

Travel Tips for the Holidays

1. Avoid Peak Travel Days.

As we have seen in years past it still holds true that the best days to fly are Tuesday, Wednesdays, and Saturdays are the cheapest days to fly. Airlines discount their flights on Monday nights so Tuesday mornings still are the best time to book a flight. But the ability to be flexible in travel dates will pay dividends this season. When searching for accommodations or flights if you can check the “flexible” on the booking site you will be able to see where the real deals are hiding. 

A better option is to leave early on the actual holiday and avoid the record traffic of the night before. The same goes with flying: If you fly on the actual holiday itself you’ll be avoiding the long lines and hordes of travelers.

Thanksgiving

 Traditionally the Wednesday before Thanksgiving has always been the busiest day to depart for the Thanksgiving weekend. With people adjusting to working remotely and increased value put on time off, this year the busiest travel day for the Thanksgiving holiday will be Monday, November 15th, while the Wednesday before Thanksgiving comes in second busiest. 

Christmas

Unlike Thanksgiving which always falls on a Thursday, the winter holiday travel season is more complicated. Predicting the popular travel days for this time of year is dictated by the day of the week that Christmas falls. This year it is predicted that Wednesday, December 22nd, will be the most popular travel day before Christmas, and Tuesday, December 28th, will be the most popular travel day after Christmas. It will still hold true that if you are able to travel on Christmas you will travel with the utmost ease out of the entire season. 

New Years

Though typically the majority of schools and jobs alike are scheduled to report back after the holidays after the New Year’s Day Holiday (January 1st), but this year January 1st falls on a Saturday. So, it is predicted that higher fares will last all the way until January 3rd if not even longer. So, plan accordingly and bring your laptop and Wi-Fi hotspot with you and stay another few days into the New Year to capitalize on those lower rates and smaller crowds.

Travel Tips for the Holidays

2. Break Up the Trip, or Keep it Direct.

Be prepared to mix it up this year. Instead of waiting for the inevitable holiday traffic jam to happen and along with the likelihood of snapping on your travel mates, plan to take the scenic route with less traffic. Or if your drive is long ,break it up with some exciting stops along the way.

If you are flying make sure to fly direct whenever possible. Spending that little extra will be worth it in the long run because you will eventually eliminate the change of connection delays and greatly decrease the headaches of lost luggage and technical issues. 

Load up on the latest travel apps before you leave home. GateGuru gets you prepared with the exact time to leave based on the times they estimate you’ll spend in security. If you are on the road don’t make the mystery of your stops part of your adventure… use GasBuddy to find the cheapest gas, and SitOrSquat to find the cleanest bathrooms. 

Travel Tips for the Holidays

3. Pack Light.

Get creative when you are packing for the Holidays. If your destination is a Vacation Rental Home or someone’s house use the address to have your gifts delivered. TSA suggests that you ship wrapped gifts or wait until you reach your destination to wrap them as they have to unwrap presents to inspect them. Or think gift cards or experiences that can be enjoyed at your destination so you have no chance of not being able to deliver the magic of the holiday. Research shows that 63% of U.S. adults (age 18-65+) would prefer to receive an experience gift than a material gift this season. 

If you are flying to meet up with your Holiday crew, be sure that you aren’t planning on checking your gifts or anything you can’t live without on the trip. The last thing you want to do once you arrive is to wait at a conveyor belt only to find out that your mom’s present is in another state. This is an awesome family packing list that you can use as a guide to get you started.  

Travel Tips for the Holidays

4. Be Prepared for the Trip and Pack for along the way.

Let’s face it no one travels well bored or hangry! So be prepared for the longer wait times and traffic jams that are inevitably going to be paired with bad food choices and less than enthusiastic service. Here are a few items to be sure you have accessible for the trip.

Snacks

When on the go a sure-fire way to keep the crew happy is to have lots of healthy snacks on hand. In addition to snacks be sure to stay hydrated. Bringing a reusable water bottle to refill along the way is not only environmentally savvy, but will also make sure everyone is feeling their best.

Fully Charged Electronics and their Chargers

Often on the go we are using our devices more and have less access to our usual charging setup. The night before your travel day be sure all the electronics you are taking are plugged in and in plain site to pack for the trip. If your trip is going to be long be sure to invest in a car charger for your devices or an power bank so if you get stuck somewhere you will have a way to charge up.

Activities

relying solely on electronics for your entertainment can be a major mistake; if the lack of wi-fi or a technological difficulty renders your device inoperable you will be wishing you had planned ahead. Be sure to pack activities that let you unplug. Activity books, scavenger hunts, good ol’ fashion books, and magazines, or art supplies and a sketchbook are all great things to pack.

Hygiene Items

A change of clothes, your toothbrush, and your face wash can make all the difference when your 8-hour trip home becomes “extended”. Since how you feel greatly affects your mood, splashing some water on your face and getting those sweaters off your teeth will help ease the pain of being stuck somewhere less desirable than planned.

Travel Tips for the Holidays

5. Get Covered and Book Worry-Free.

Between reading the fine print, finding a flexible cancellation policy, and coordinating with a large group, this year’s preparation will be more key than ever. Travel Insurance has always been an option worth considering, but especially now.

Any travel insurance that is worth purchasing now is going to cover you if you or anyone in your party were to contract the Corona Virus. But reading the fine print here is key. Find out what is required for you to prove you have contracted the virus. 

Most experts are recommending the often upgraded “cancel for any reason” insurance policies. They often range from requiring purchase 30 days to 48 hours before departure and you can cancel for any reason with this type of policy. Some policies reimburse you for up to 75% of your prepaid non-refundable expenses, but that percentage has been sliding lower so be sure to check. Since the fear of travel is not covered under most policies this all-inclusive type of policy can give you peace of mind and allow you to cancel your trip last minute if you decide you don’t feel safe traveling for the holidays. 

Another stipulation to research before you go is the cancellation policy. Most companies have gotten stricter with the cancellation policies, while others have gotten more lenient. Once you know the company’s cancellation policy be sure to set a few reminders on your calendar to warn you of the approaching date so if you foresee any issues with your travel you can cancel within the allotted timeframe and you aren’t stuck having missed it. Avoid non-refundable bookings right now even if they are cheaper. 

Travel Tips for the Holidays

6. Book a Staycation.

Get all the amenities and relaxation of a trip without the travel hassles by staying in a local vacation home for the holidays and having a staycation. With a vacation house close to home, you can leave all the housekeeping and guest preparations to the rental company. 

Even better yet, make sure to research the property management companies in your local or destination area and find the ones that are full service so you can have everything taken care of for you. From your airport transportation or rental car to a fully catered Thanksgiving (or at least a fully-stocked fridge with your grocery list), or as elaborate as a fully decorated home for Christmas with a tree delivered and decorated! Since most destinations are busiest in the summer months, take advantage of the availability of your guest-services team and ask them about the packages they have or any special requests you would like. 

Travel Tips for the Holidays

7. Save Money & Book Direct.

Though Airbnb is probably the most well-known vacation rental company, other sites like Vrbo, Homestay.com, Expedia, etc. also do a great job of curating rental homes for you to view. These sites are great for finding a house you would like to stay in, but we recommend that you do a little more digging and you will find that you will save hundreds, if not more! 

One of the biggest mistakes guests make when booking a vacation home is not searching for the property management companies in the area they are looking to visit and seeing who is the leader in the area. Then give them a call or email! Whether you have found your dream vacation house on a major listing site or have found a company directly based on the area, reach out to them and ask what their best price is. Explain your group and what you are coming to town to do, and ask them for a recommendation of their best property. You may be surprised by the discounts and unlisted properties you will discover! 

Travel Tips for the Holidays

8. Be Flexible & Grateful. 

Though you have done all you can to prepare for this season’s holiday travel, you should expect surprises. Besides spreading holiday cheer – kindness, patience and a smile can go a long way if you do run into an issue along your travels. 

Christina Steinorth-Powell, a psychotherapist based in Nashville, says there are ways to manage the anxiety that comes with uncertainty. Careful planning can take the edge off an upcoming trip. Start by making a list weeks before your vacation that includes all the essentials: masks, antibacterial wipes, disinfectants, test kits, and proof of vaccination. “When you make a list early, you’re less stressed and worried about your trip and in a better frame of mind,” she says.

All in all, when it comes to holiday travel, be grateful you are able to gather and if there are bumps along the way getting to your desired destination, be sure to take them in stride and have fun on the journey!