Sunday, December 04, 2005

3 Tips for Organized Holiday Travel

Tip of the Week, November 20 and 27, 2005

This Wednesday, I'll be joining masses of my fellow Americans on a holiday travel journey. Though the process of flying across the country won't be (and, for me, never is) entirely stress-free, I've developed some travel habits and practices that help make my journeys calmer, less hectic, and more organized. On your next holiday trip, whether by plane, train, or automobile, try putting some of these tips to use.

Pack mindfully
How much and what you pack for each trip depends on several factors: where you're going, how long you'll be there, what you'll be doing, and how you're travelling. A week-long trip taken by car, for example, allows a lot more leeway luggage-wise than a three-day journey by plane. In any case, though, being mindful of what you pack can help ensure that you have what you need without being overwhelmed by too much stuff.

Packing mindfully doesn't require deprivation or forced minimalism. It simply means that before loading up your suitcases, you take the time to think about what you're bringing and decide whether it's worth the schlep. Remember, the more stuff you bring, the more you'll have to deal with while you're on vacation, and the more you'll have to worry about bringing home again.

Give yourself enough time
If you've ever had to sprint through an airport or train station to board on time (which--confession time--I have, and more than once) or have arrived late for an event because you didn't allow ample drive time (ditto), you know first-hand how running behind can add to the stress of travel.

Though the amount of time you need to get where you're going will vary widely depending on how, when, and where you're travelling, a safe rule of thumb for holiday journeys is to add at least a quarter more time to your estimate. For example, if you normally aim to get to the airport an hour before your flight (which most airlines recommend you do), allow yourself an hour and 15 minutes during busy holiday times. Adding some extra time "padding" will help you avoid stressful rush scenarios or, worse yet, missed flights or trains.

Put technology to work for you
Technology can't completely erase the stress of travel, but it can make your journeys easier and help you save time. Travelling by plane? Check in online and print your boarding pass before you even set foot in the airport. You'll avoid long lines at agent-assisted check-in counters and, if you're not checking luggage, can go right to security when you arrive. (If you are checking luggage, you'll often be able to hand it off to an agent at a designated spot for passengers who've already checked in.) Your airline's Web site will have information about online check-in policies and procedures.

Travelling by car? If you're driving on toll roads, look into getting a Fast Track pass. The name of the pass varies by region, but the function is the same: stick the device to the inside of your windshield and each time you drive through a toll booth, your Fast Track account will automatically be charged for the amount of the toll. No more waiting in long lines to pay an agent or having to worry about whether you have the correct change on hand.

Wherever your holiday travels take you, chances are you'll still hit some traffic, will get stuck behind the fellow who reclines his airplane seat for the duration of your five-hour flight, or will have to wade your way through a crowded airport or train station. But by putting these three organized travel tips to work, you'll buy yourself a bit of relaxation, will avoid unnecessary stress, and can focus more on the joy of where you're going and less on the process of getting there.

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