Planes, trains and automobile. No matter how you’re getting to your destination, holiday travel can be nerve-wracking in the best of times. And this year, following the recent terrorist attacks, the State Department has issued a global travel alert for US citizens traveling abroad. While no specific advisory has been issued for domestic travel, the Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) announced heightened security ahead of the holiday period and beyond.
Beyond the added security and safety concerns, the ordinary hassles of travel aren’t going away. But help is here. We’ve collected helpful tips to reduce stress and keep your holiday travel as merry as possible.
Before you go
- If traveling abroad register with the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment program.
- Program airline numbers, frequent flyer numbers, credit and bank card help lines into your cell phone. As an added precaution, also write down important numbers and addresses in case your phone loses battery power or (knock wood) gets lost or damaged.
- Scan your travel documents (tickets, reservation numbers and the like) into your phone or computer and email to yourself and to a trusted family member or friend that you can reach in an emergency.
- Download your airline’s app. If your flight gets delayed or cancelled for any reason, go online and/or call the airline while you wait in line. This is especially true if the flight is cancelled due to weather conditions, says frequent traveler Roger Brinkley, the CEO of Pac2Go. “Even if you don’t have status on the airlines, calling will get you where you have to go faster,” says Brinkley. “And the person taking the call probably won’t be as stressed as the person behind the counter,” he adds.
- Be social media savvy urges Paige Hanson, Educational Senior Programs Manager at identity security firm LifeLock. Hanson advises that you don’t talk about your dates of travel on social media. If you are engaging on social media platforms, disable the geotag function on your mobile device, she says.
- Hanson also advises travelling “wallet light” by carrying only two credit cards and a debit/ATM card. Try to use a credit card over a debit card. “If your card is breached, it may be easier to dispute the charges with your financial institution,” she notes.
- Use Wi-Fi cautiously advises Hanson. In the airport, at a hotel or other public space, don’t transact or check your banking statements and try not to enter any passwords.
At the airport
- Have ID’s and plane tickets out. Empty your pockets, place all coins, jewelry, belts with buckles in the bin. Take coats and shoes off and place in bin. Take laptops out and place in a separate bin.
- Follow the TSA’s 311 guidelines for carry-on luggage for non-exempt liquids: 3-ounce bottle or less for all liquids, gels and aerosols, placed in a 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag; 1 bag per passenger placed in screening bin. Note: The limitations on liquids apply only to carry-on bags and larger quantities may be packed in checked baggage.
- TSA also recommends that passengers do not travel with wrapped packages. In order to determine if the contents of a package are a threat, a security officer may need to unwrap and inspect the item.
- Medicines should be in their original prescription bottles, and you should also carry copies of your prescriptions (ask your pharmacist to print an extra label or ask your doctor for a copy of your prescription) advises Dr. Michael Zimring, Director, The Center for Wilderness and Travel Medicine at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. Pack all your medicines and medical supplies in your carry-on luggage.
- If you’re traveling with a pet, you’ll have to take your pet out of the carrying case and place the case through the X-ray machine. Remember to remove the leash when carrying your pet through the metal detector.
- If planning to fly with a pet in cabin, check requirements with the airline and make reservations for your pet when you book your ticket as airlines often restrict how many pets can fly in the cabin on a particular flight, says pet owner Matilda Geroulis of The Travel Sisters. Also, make sure your pet is microchipped and registered. If you are traveling internationally and considering taking your pet, be sure to contact the embassy of the destination country regarding quarantine rules.
- Familiarize your pet with its crate or carrier. Purchase the item at least a month before travel to allow your pet ample time to get comfortable with it advises Heidi Ganahl, CEO of Camp Bow Wow.
- If you’re traveling by car, purchase a seatbelt for your pooch. It allows your dog to move around, but provides restraint in case of a sudden stop or accident says Ganahl.
- Feed your pet about five or six hours before traveling to avoid motion sickness recommends Ganahl. Providing time for food to digest lessens the chances of your pet becoming ill during travel.
And to keep yourself feeling well while traveling, strive to keep your sense of humor (and make sure to stretch your legs while onboard the airplane). Remember that aggravation is temporary. Still, if you feel yourself losing it, try Dr. Andrew Weill’s relaxing breath exercise:
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
- Repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
Have a safe trip and enjoy the journey as much as your destination.