With Christmas and New Year’s fast approaching, we are all feeling the pre-holiday scramble. While planning for the holidays can be a hair-pulling experience, here are some tips and tricks that can help procrastinators feel ready for the trip ahead.
If you are heading out on the road, try to leave during off-peak times (if you can). An early morning or late night departure can help avoid a big jam. Also, try to avoid December 23 (one of the busiest).
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 like Waze, 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.
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 just got canceled, you can act fast and get first in line to reschedule.
Hunt for deals
Yes, 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.
And — if you 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.
Read more: 7 things on deep discount in December
Redeem credit card rewards
Last minute travelers should take a look at their credit card reward program and see how many miles or points they’ve accrued. It could be enough to pay for that last minute flight.
Tip: I’ve written about the benefits of some reward plans from credit cards. The Venture card is one to check out. It’s a card option I’ve been writing about this season from Capital One. What makes it special? You can earn two time the miles on every purchase. Then, redeem those miles for any travel-related expense — flights, hotels, even Uber rides.
Ship the gifts!
If you are heading by air for the holidays, consider shipping gifts ahead of time. (You don’t want to get wacked with extra fees – or get presents 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.
Tip: 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.
Prep the kids
Give kids a play-by-play on what they’ll expect during a 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 what to expect.
Tip: Plan games or bring toys to keep kids occupied during long road trips.
Read more: The top family cars for holiday travel
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 a “are we there yet?” experience.
Want more money-saving travel info? See our Travel section.