The following is a guest post from momAgendaCOMM blogger Jenn Quillen.
The holiday season brings families and friends together, and more often than not, travel is required to make that happen. Whether it’s packing the kids up to visit at your parent’s house for Thanksgiving dinner, or jetting off with your significant other to NYC to spend New Year’s Eve in Times Square, we always end up saving our vacation days for holiday travel.
Here are five things you must do before traveling this holiday season:
1. Book your travel in advance.
Book flights or rental cars as far in advance as you can to take advantage of discounts and to ensure you aren’t left stranded at the last moment. Air travel is not what it used to be. While many travelers claim that grabbing discounted last-minute flights are a great way to save money, the sad reality is that the holidays are the busiest time of year for air travel and unless you’re willing to fly solo on Christmas morning, you’re likely to find that there are no flights available. And, standby cannot be relied upon during the holiday season. Set fare alerts with your favorite airlines as soon as you know the dates you’d like to travel and keep an eye out for low prices on Tuesday afternoons which is when prices are usually at their lowest.
2. Have pets? Make arrangements for their care and then make backup arrangements.
We have three dogs, three indoor cats, an outdoor cat and a snake. We can never just pick up and leave. We usually rely upon my younger sister to watch them for us, although it’s always best to have a backup plan. If you have a neighbor or relative who’s willing to care for your furry family members while you’re away during the holidays, make sure that you have someone available in case your primary pet sitter has a change of plans, becomes ill, etc. Call ahead to animal-friendly friends, kennels, your vet’s office, and the groomer (many offer boarding services) just in case you need a last minute option. If you plan on taking your pets with you, make sure that you have any paperwork ready for flights with an airline approved kennel, and most importantly, make sure that any hotels you’ll be staying in allow pets.
3. Think about your medical needs.
No matter where you are heading this holiday season, your medications will be easier to take with you than to track them down once you get there. I always travel with headache medicine, migraine medicine, cold and flu medicine, B-12, sleep aids, upset stomach relief, Benadryl and Emergen-C packets. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, right? I recently went out of the country with my husband and he got an upset stomach our second day there. A small package of Immodium cost $23 in the hotel gift shop because I didn’t realize that the ones in my suitcase were expired. If you have allergies or medical needs, make sure you pack enough medicine and always pack one or two extra because you never know if you’re going to drop one down the bathroom sink.
4. Plan your travel entertainment.
Before any trip, we download movies and new books to our tablets and laptops. I also bring a paperback book to keep me occupied just in case I’m without a power source. If you have small children, make sure that you have something for them to do on long drives or flights. Add movies and games to tablets, but bring along a toy or two as well because they’ll get bored with the electronics after awhile. Don’t forget to pack your headphones in an easy-to-reach place for quick access, too.
5. Prepare for the unexpected.
If you are flying during the holidays, you’ll likely be checking your luggage (which will be full of presents and heavy winter clothing). Make sure you keep at least one simple change of clothes in your carry-on so that if the airline loses your luggage, you aren’t left without a change of clothes. If you’re traveling to a warm climate, you’re probably going to wear clothing meant for warm weather. Bring along a cardigan with you on the plane since most airlines no longer provide a free blanket.
Finally, hit the ATM before you leave since you never know what might happen. I found once we arrived in Punta Cana that the Dominican Republic was on my credit union’s black list, so we had no way to get cash during our six days there. Luckily, I went to the ATM before we left for our trip and it was an all-inclusive resort so we were okay. Also, call your credit card companies and banks ahead of time and let them know you’re traveling, and share which states/countries you’ll be visiting. They’ll note on your account where you’ll be and you won’t run into that “fraud alert hold” while you’re trying to do some holiday shopping on vacation.