Need to travel over the holidays? Need the flight before Christmas? Oh sure we all want to travel during the holiday season and go somewhere warm, or even some place familiar filled with family and friends. But do you need to travel during the holidays?
If so, then you need some ground rules and also some guidelines and tips on how to go and when to book the flight before Christmas. There are lots of benefits to holiday air travel and a few big drawbacks too. But, if you want to know the ins and outs and the ways to save your sanity while traveling during this busy time of year then you have come to the right place.
Best and Worst Times to Go
Black Friday is to retail shopping what Thanksgiving Wednesday (the day before Thanksgiving Day) is to air travel. It’s literally the busiest travel day of the year for the airline industry. An easy method for making things less stressful is to simply not fly on this day. Unlike the super busy Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the taxing travel times for Christmas are spread out over several days.
Lucky for you there are a few tips that can make a Christmas journey by air less nerve-racking.
Direct Verses Non Stop Flights
Confusion and misunderstanding sometimes arises with the two terms: direct versus non stop flights. Direct, in airline terminology, simply means the passenger does not have to change aircraft on their trip. According to ICAO the flight may actually include up to 3 stops along the way and be considered direct. Not my definition of direct at all but when booking be sure you know the industry standard definitions.
Non stop is just that. The flight takes off and lands at the destination without a scheduled stop in between. Nonstop flights incur fewer troubles due to their nature, but the passenger usually pays a premium in the ticket price. These flights are like unicorns. If you see one for a great price snag it fast.
To be avoided at all cost if possible; however southern hubs tend to be better than northern ones this time of the year. It is important to understand that even if one hub has fine weather and the departure and destination airports are great, the aircraft may be coming from a hub or airport that is a mess.
Checked Or Carry-on Luggage
The easiest way to lighten the burden of traveling is to go light. Try not to check luggage but understand that carry-on luggage is restricted. Not only is there much more luggage on flights this time of the year but the increased volume makes lost luggage more likely.
Companies exist to help send packages, presents and suitcases. Overnight companies like Federal Express and UPS will deliver luggage quickly. Furthermore, independent forwarders like the Luggage Club, Independent Travelers, Go Nomad and Luggage Free specialize in this service. Luggage Free states on their website that they are a specialty service offering the ability to ship luggage ahead to any destination worldwide. This could be worth it potentially. Give it some thought. It might beat the inconvenience of carrying, checking and claiming bags as well as going through customs.
Days of the Week
The days of the week do matter when taking a trip. The list below identifies the best travel days during the Xmas holiday with a Thanksgiving caveat of course.
What if The Flight Before Christmas is on Christmas Day?
* Christmas Day can actually be an excellent day to travel. In fact, it can be the absolute best day! While families are gathered under the tree opening presents, singing carols in church, preparing Christmas dinner, chatting with family and enjoying the spirit of the season, few people are sitting in airplanes, because they mostly have no interest in doing that. But in fact you can get some good deals to travel on Christmas Day. So don’t out rule this day for airline travel.
Days of the Week
* Tuesday is the second leading day (4th best during Thanksgiving.) It is early in the work-week and few people have time to travel. So consider Tuesday next time you need to fly, especially if it involves holiday flights.
* Wednesday, unless Christmas Day falls on a Thursday, is the third best travel day of the week for the same reasons as above.
* Saturday comes in fourth.
* Monday is a solid fifth. Workers with extended vacation are now beginning to fly. Also those bumped passengers from their Sunday flight are rebooked today.
* Thursday travelers taking long weekends fly today; however, the problem is intensified because business travelers start ending their business trips as well. The combination of business and holiday travelers begin to fill up airports and airplanes making Thursday 6th on the list (6th on Thanksgiving Day too.) So Thursdays can be very busy travel days in airports.
* Friday, for the same reasons as Thursday, makes this day number 7. Business people traveling home, students finishing classes and workers beginning their vacation all clamour for flights on this day.
* Sunday is a HOT mess not only after the holiday but before as well. Similar to Friday it too includes returning travelers – the absolute worst travel day. So don’t travel on a Sunday, when possible.
Hours of the Days
Convenient travel depends on the hour of the day. External factors can become compounded throughout the day, so often it makes more sense to leave early in the morning when possible. Weather worsens, delays grow longer and cancellations increase as the hours tick by in a business day. Plan for early departure and avoid potential headaches.
Up and At Em!
* Mornings are best on very bad travel days. Missed and overbooked flights have a ripple effect on passengers as the day progresses. Thursday, Friday and Sunday mornings are much better travel times than Thursday, Friday and Sunday evening.
* Afternoon – Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons are the best times. After the morning and before the evening business rush hours, the midday flights are easier to grab. Along with Saturday and Christmas Day the airport traffic is lighter, security areas less dense and even restaurants less crowded; making the whole experience brighter.
* Evening – The only time traveling at night is a good deal is on Monday, but in most cases a red-eye is better than day flights. Some international flights only go later at night so you may not have a choice.
To Recap Then…
Basically you need to think strategically when you are opting for holiday airline travel. Book flights that are early in the day and early in the week. Consider booking holiday flights or even family cruises for that matter on December 25th. If your gift is a family trip and your kids are babies, or teens, then why not save money and depart on Christmas Day?
So How Will You Book That Trip in the Future?
There are always a lot of steps to undertake before you embark on a trip. But, you can save some of the headaches of delays and high charges, maybe even avoid lost luggage if you pay close attention to the timing of your flights and the booking process. Oh, I know there’s not much that’s exciting or say about the booking part. However, for me that investment in planning properly can pay off with a smooth flight or a big cost savings. And that is always appealing.