Every holiday season, more than 100 million people jet around the country for homemade pie, holiday games, and heated arguments about Uncle Joe’s new girlfriend. How to get a leg up on those weary travelers? Ahead, we look at the year’s most need-to-know stats and situations so that you can get home for the holidays without losing your cool.
Buy, Baby, Buy
There are more opinions about the best time to buy holiday airfare than there are cheese-stained shirts in Philly, but one thing’s for certain: If your travel dates are already solid, grab those tickets stat. Though several airlines are adding extra flights to accommodate the holiday rush, even Santa would have to fork over some crazy cash to score a last-minute seat.
That said, when you fly is just as important as when you buy. Keep the below things in mind while you browse your flight options:
- Thanksgiving-week departures are usually cheapest on Monday or Tuesday, but avoid the following Sunday like the plague. It’s often the busiest day of the season. You’ll be better off spending the extra night in your parents’ den and skipping town Monday morning.
- Because Christmas falls on a Thursday this year, weekend-to-weekend flights are destined to be doozies. The Sunday rule applies here too; unless you have a billion dollars burning a hole in your designer handbag, stick to the mid-week flights.
Hangar in There
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” says anyone who hasn’t slogged through an airport on December 23. No matter how many gingerbread lattes you guzzle, holiday cheer flies right out the window once those tinned carols and frazzled families start impeding on your personal space. Deck the halls with boughs of ugh.
There is, however, one simple thing you can do to make the airport situation slightly less painful this year: Give yourself way more time than you think you’ll need. We’re talking at least 90 minutes for a domestic flight and double that for international. Sure, you could wind up with time to kill, but maybe you’ll actually taste that gingerbread latte for once.
The Security Skinny
We’d gladly hand over the last piece of pumpkin pie for a security line that didn’t snake around the terminal. Luckily for pretty much everyone, there might be a light at the end of that tunnel. This summer, the TSA began testing expedited pre-checks at airports across the country, officially known as TSA Pre✓™, and officials have stated that the practice could eventually become the new normal. If that’s the case, you’ll do a quick screening before dashing, dancing, prancing, and vixening through security without even having to take off your shoes. Talk about a Christmas miracle.
Still, do the agents a favor: Don’t show up with wrapped gifts. More often than not, they’ll have to tear into the packages for security purposes, and that’s just a pain for everyone involved. May we suggest gift cards?
You’ve Got Baggage
You’ve also got fees. The good news is that the old standards are mostly unchanged: Carry-on baggage is generally free, the first checked bag hovers between $15 and $25, and the second ranges from $20 to $75. Any luggage after that will give your budget a good scare – some airlines charge up to $150 – but it’s nothing you haven’t muddled through before.
The bad news is that we’re also seeing a few new rules crop up among the classics. Watch out for these baggage updates:
- Though it once offered free baggage, Porter Airlines now charges $25 for a first checked bag and $35 for a second.
- Frontier Airlines has adopted similar fees according to weight, and it’s also charging $50 for any bag that has to be checked at the gate.
- Spirit Airlines is adding an additional $2 surcharge for all checked baggage between December 18 and January 5.
- The TSA has increased its fees for nonstop flights by 124%: $5.60 each way as opposed to the previous $2.50.
Check with your airline for specifics, but don’t let the extra fees get you down. One sip of Uncle Joe’s eggnog will clear up any case of the baggage bah-humbugs. Trust us. There’s one in every family.