You’re plane tickets are in hand and you’re counting down the days until you fly back to your hometown or to see your far away Grand-kids.  Travel during this time of year can evoke a two sided feelings:  Joy & excitement as you anticipate seeing loved ones and anxiety & stress over traveling during such a busy time of year.

It’s no secret that the airports will be crowded, some flights may be delayed and everyone will be on a tight schedule.  We’ve done some research for you and listed 8 tips (with links to even more info) to help you get to your destination hopefully feeling more joyful and less stressed.

1.  Check flight status and review the airport maps (terminals & parking lots) before you leave home.  In addition to the airline’s website or mobile app, TripIt can help you organize your travel and will send you flight alerts and Flightstats tracks flight in real time, give airport overviews and airport parking options.

2.  Check in ahead of time with your airline and put critical documents such as ID, credit cards, and boarding passes in an easily accessible part of your wallet or bag.  Check TSA’s PreCheck to see if you qualify for expedited screening benefits.

3.  Program the airlines 800 number into your phone. If your flight is delayed or canceled it may be faster to call the airline’s 800 number than if you wait for the overwhelmed customer service agent to help you figure out your options.

4.  Limit your carry on baggage and review prohibited items and packing on TSA’s website.  Luggage fees stink, we know, but cramming everything into a large carry on could slow you down more than it will save you time in the long run.  Arguably, one of the most serious travel problems for many people is traveling with too much stuff.  Lugging it through the airport, going through security, and trying to find a place to store it on a full flight slows you down.  Also, you could be penalized for over sized bags or forced to gate check your carry on.  See “Independent’s” 11 Versatile Travel Essentials You Can’t Do Without for packing tips.

5.  Give yourself extra time to get to the airport, park and check bags.  If you’re going to utilize the airport’s self parking lots, assume that they will be full and you may lose time driving around looking for the few open spots.  You may have to drive to alternate lots or park and take a shuttle to the airport.  If you live in a climate where snow, rain, sleet and ice can be present, expect to spend even more time taking it slow on the road, navigating around parking lots, around snow removal vehicles, and parking lot shuttles.

6.  Check the airport & airline’s website for how to receive assistance if you are elderly, physically challenged, need a concierge, or flying with pets.  Check their procedures if you are traveling with a wheelchair, walker or cane.  Many airlines will allow you to call ahead to reserve wheelchairs and electric carts in advance and request special seating with a doctor’s note.  TSA also provides online information to help you prepare if you are traveling with a children including children with medical conditions or disabilities.

7.  Check flight status after you go through security and again when you get to your gate.  As your flight time is getting close, you will start to see gate changes and more reliable departure time estimates.  Then, go directly to your gate and check the status again.  Unfortunately the status boards can be unreliable during busy travel times due to a lag in the system updates.

8.  Be realistic.  The bottom line is if you’re going to travel during the holidays your chances of encountering long lines, unpredictable weather, inexperienced travelers and congestion in the terminals is high.  But, if you follow some our tips, you may reduce the stress of travel and stay focused more on the joy of being with the ones you care about this season.

While traveling, Classic Cleaners can help reduce some of the stress of travel by taking care of your cleaning and household needs while you’re gone.  Here we tell you how we can take care of all your laundry needs during your visit away from home and save you some money during our current limited time offer!

– S.O.