Travelling at Christmas can be exciting and magical; spending time with far flung relatives, heading back home to see your family or just making a break from the UK for a couple of well-earned days can seem heavenly when faced with bitter winds, crowded supermarkets and gridlocked roads.
Unfortunately it’s also one of the busiest times to fly; sadly we can’t all travel the world Santa-style in a private sleigh, and before Christmas flight prices rocket sky high as thousands of people attempt to flee for the festive season. Busy airports and chocka flights can soon lead to stressed out travel and family fights; so at APH we’ve come up with a six step plan to help you side-step holiday hell and head straight for Christmas cheer!
With tips on everything from getting a cheap flight, to packing fragile gifts and the items you can take on board; you’ll find everything you need for stress free Christmas travel!
Step 1: Bag a bargain
Flying at Christmas is one of the most expensive times of the year; buying a ticket in advance is the best solution as flights fill up pretty quickly during the festive season, and once the flights start getting full, those prices take a hike.
If your trip is last minute or unplanned, then the best thing to do is shop around. Head to Kayak or Skyscanner to search out a deal; these handy search engines scan not only airline prices, but prices at many different ticket agents to find you the best price. Being flexible with your dates, flying at less appealing times and setting off mid-week could also see you saving a packet.
Step 2: Gift packing
First things first; fire up your laptop and create a list of everything you need to take, prioritising your passport, tickets and devices. Once you have a comprehensive list, packing becomes a dream! You can also save it to your desktop so that when you take your next trip, you have a ready made packing list. Try not to pack your whole house though; airports at Christmas are hectic places and negotiating through large crowds with vast amounts of luggage could see you headed for disaster.
Next thing to worry about is all those pressies you are carting across the world. If you’re taking gifts with you, it’s worth bearing in mind the following:
-Buying gift vouchers and tokens is a great way to transport presents easily across time zones!
-Wait to wrap your gifts; security staff might need to unwrap them, and re-wrapping them will be a real pain. If you can wrap them once you’re at your destination then go for it.
-Don’t put valuable items in the hold; take them with you on-board even if this means sacrificing space for other items. The only way to guarantee the safety of valuables is to carry them on you at all times.
-Consider posting bulky gifts ahead; the cost of postage might well be cheaper than excess baggage charges. Check with your airline and then head to Royal Mail to calculate the cost.
-For fragile gifts that aren’t especially valuable, like a delicate vase or a bottle of wine, wrap in bubble wrap and then pop inside a large jumper in the middle of your checked luggage, so that it’s cushioned on all sides. Although we can’t guarantee your gifts won’t turn up broken at the other end, this is your best shot at getting them there on budget.
Step 3: Jump in your car
Driving to the airport is the least stressful way to start your trip; the roads may be on the busy side during the festive season, but sitting in traffic in a warm car sure beats hanging around on a freezing platform waiting for a delayed train.
Plan ahead for your journey, check out the weather forecasts for potential problems and plan your route. Pre-book yourself some airport car parking so you can sail into a reserved space and avoid the last minute parking panic. For the ultimate hassle-free experience consider booking a meet and greet airport parking package; just drive straight to the terminal where a chauffeur will be waiting to take your car off your hands.
Step 4: Get airside
Make sure you keep up to date with the security restrictions and know what you can take on board; the last thing you want when travelling at peak times is to be held up at airport security or be forced to throw away gifts you were planning to take on board.
Before you get to security, put all liquids in a clear plastic bag; ready and waiting to be checked through security. Check out the government’s advice on what you can and can’t take on board below…
-Make sure your devices are charged and you can power them up; ipads, laptops and mobiles that can’t be turned on may be refused by security.
-Firearms, flares, explosives, volatile liquid and weapons of any kind cannot be taken on board; for the full list head to gov.uk.
-Some surprising items that are banned include tent pegs, peroxide, fishing rods and most sporting equipment; again head to gov.uk if you have concerns.
Step 5: Survive long haul stress-free
Our top tips for the smoothest ride possible:
- Choose your seat wisely; you can use handy tool Seat Guru to pick the best seat for your flight. Just enter your flight details and seat guru brings up a seat plan of your aircraft, highlighting the top choices.
- Choosing a seat nearer the front of the plane means that noise levels will be lower and gives you half a chance of making a quick exit once the plane touches down.
- Before setting foot on the plane make sure you have walked around as much as possible; you’re going to be sitting for a long time so make the most of being active!
- Speaking of being active; choose an aisle seat. Windows might make for spectacular views, but having to ask someone to move every time you need the toilet gets old very quickly. Choosing an aisle seat makes it easier to get up and stretch your legs regularly too, staving off nasties like deep vein thrombosis.
- Create a flight kit; pack yourself a handy bag containing earplugs, eyeshades, flight socks, a toothbrush and toothpaste (under 100ml), eye drops and moisturiser (also under 100ml), face wipes and painkillers. All of these items will help you stave off fatigue and arrive at your destination feeling as human as possible.
- Dress comfortably. You are going to be sitting for long periods of time in restricted space, so avoid tight clothing and opt for something a little looser
- Low cabin pressure and minimal movement make for swollen feet, so wear your comfiest shoes.
- Take a decent pair of headphones with you; the ones given out by the airline will inevitably give up the ghost half way through a film, or leave you feeling full of headache thanks to their cheap and tinny sound quality. Noise cancelling headphones will also help to drown out ambient noise and leave you feeling relaxed and in control.
- Charge your devices! Your iPod running out of juice half way through your extensive flight compilation will only induce stress…
- Curb the nightmare of delayed or lost baggage by packing a few essentials in your carry-on luggage; having the first 24 hours’ worth of clothing covered means you can put off stressing and enjoy your arrival while your bag is located.
- Invest in a tracking device for your luggage for added peace of mind; the Trakdot lets you keep an eye on where your bag is at all times, so that you can rest easy or be one step ahead of the airline if it wanders off…
Travelling with children?
The chances are that your kids are going with you when you head off for Christmas, and this can make for added drama as you tackle their packing, their boredom and their hunger. Check out APH’s top tips for travelling with children for lots of handy hints and advice.
Step 6: Arrive in style just in time to celebrate!
Thanks to your pre-planning and organisational genius you will find yourself arriving feeling excited about Christmas and full of festive cheer, instead of worn out and wanting your bed.
Happy Christmas, everyone!