Travel Smart: Surviving peak-season travel

Travel Smart: Surviving peak-season travel

Air travel can be a complicated ordeal with delays over security, document requirements, weather conditions and other factors, but there are preparations we can make to get things moving smoothly, avoid hassles, and reduce stress.

Here are some tips on reducing peak-season travel anxiety.

The plan:

Avoid procrastinator’s regret. The phrase “the early bird gets the worm” applies when booking flights and accommodation, even in hotel/resort package deals, as the later you book lessens the chances of getting the room you want (i.e. ocean or garden view), or window or aisle seat (depending on the airline).

Planning late could result in not getting the date you want. Last-minute deals may be available in the off-season, but are fewer and farther between during peaks.

Consider a mid-week departure and a return over the weekend, as it’s less busy on a Wednesday or Thursday. Early-morning and late-evening flights are less popular and airports are less busy at those times of day. All-inclusive package deals may not have that option.

While most people want to be settled in at their destination on specific days, such as Christmas or Thanksgiving, that’s when airports are less crowded in peak season, and flights are usually cheaper, too.

Direct flights may cost more, but your chances of delays, cancellations and luggage mix ups, especially in winter, double with stopover and connecting flights.

The prep:

Countries can differ on passport expiry requirements, so it’s wise to check the Government of Canada’s travel information website for up-to-date advisories listing each country’s rules. Travellers with fewer than 90 days left on their passports have had their holiday plans dashed with no time to remedy the situation.

The site also lists required or recommended vaccinations against preventable illnesses from germs, bug and animal bites for more than 200 destinations. If shots are needed, you should consult your doctor or visit a travel health clinic at least six weeks ahead of the trip.

Figure out what form of currency will work best where you’re going, as cash, credit card, debit, travellers cheques and mobile wallet (smartphone) transactions give us many currency options, and they vary in terms of convenience, acceptability, security, transaction, and currency exchange fees, interest rates and other charges.

The baggage:

Pack wisely. Whether you roll your clothes for space, or take less stuff to be nimble traveller, remember all the times you got back home realizing you hauled around way more clothing than needed.

Wear your shoes and pack your flip-flops. Don’t take your winter coat to the Caribbean and back when you can wear a couple of layers of things you’ll need at your destination under a jacket or hoodie instead. If going to a cold destination, wearing heavier clothing saves luggage space.

Pack spare clothes and essentials for easy access — like prescriptions — and personal care/hygiene items in your carry-on bag to manage in the event your luggage is delayed or lost.

If you’re taking gifts consider shipping them ahead rather than packing them. I’ll save you luggage space. Consider getting gifts at duty-free, which you can take on board in addition to your carry-on.

The airport:

Check with your airline, online or by phone, before you leave home to see if your flight is leaving on schedule.

Get there early, check in as soon as you can, and keep airline, hotel/resort, car rental agency and other important phone numbers handy. If a problem arises, you’ll be able to deal with it right away.

The last passengers to arrive are usually the first to get bumped on overbooked flights.

By being at the airport three hours before international flights, or two hours prior to a domestic flight, you’ll have time to spare and less stress to bear.

If your airline lets you check in online 24 hours before a flight, you can dodge crowded airport lineups.

Pack some snacks and something to read in case of a delay, as everything’s expensive at airports.

The destination:

Early risers get through the breakfast crush ahead of the crowd, get the best beach spots, and into venues like museums, historic sites and other attractions before they’re packed with people and lineups.

Avoid the areas and attractions all the tourists flock to at peak times and days. Check local event listings, online and in print, to see what the locals do and the places they frequent.

Don’t keep all your finances in one place, such as a wallet or purse, in the event of loss or theft. Spread it across different pockets and places, such as a money belt or hidden pouch.

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