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‘Tis the season for the busiest travel season of the year. While the holidays are already stressful, adding in layers for travel—either by airplane or car—can take the stress to an entirely new level.

Crowded airports, busy roadways, increased prices and limited availability, holiday travel in 2021 will be here before we know it, with additional safety precautions to consider due to the pandemic, too.

According to Forbes, 52% of Americans plan to travel during the holidays this year as people are anxious to make up for lost time with loved ones. As you prepare for holiday travel in 2021, check out these tips for a less stressful adventure.

  • Book sooner than later. Flight costs are increasing and are projected to go up each day as we approach the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. And with COVID-19 uncertainties, many people who are waiting to book flights will be clamoring for a handful of available seats as dates near. Try to avoid nonrefundable tickets, even if they are a cheaper alternative, to make sure you have more options in the event that something goes wrong. The lesson here: be sure to book airfare sooner than later for the best rates and availability.
  • And book early flight times. In the event that flights are changed, delayed or canceled (all of which can happen due to the frequent change in weather as the winter season approaches), booking flight times early in the day allows you the ability to make changes or find another travel option to get you to your destination in possibly the same day.
  • Choose an alternative airport. Selecting a smaller airport that is less crowded might provide better options if you can be flexible for your holiday travel. You may find peace traveling by car (personal space anyone?) for a few additional minutes to get to the nearest regional airport over the convenience of the large nearby hub, especially during the holidays when crowds tend to be larger at bigger airports.
  • Consider direct flights. When booking air travel during the holiday season, consider booking direct flights to your destination. You’ll be able to avoid crowds during layovers and hopefully eliminate the risk of additional flight changes or delays to your travel itinerary.
  • Fly on the holiday to save. Air traffic tends to be lighter and prices and availability much better if you can adjust your schedule and travel on the actual holiday.
  • Don’t forget the rental car. Rental cars are in high demand, so don’t wait to book yours. Availability is already limited and prices could spike with increased demand during peak holiday travel dates near Thanksgiving and Christmas. According to a recent article, car rentals in the United States are up 244% compared to 2020 which could lead to a rental car shortage during these busy dates.
  • Keep an eye on the weather. Be sure to watch the weather for your current location as well as your final destination. Weather happening in either location can impact your travel schedule. If traveling by car, make sure your vehicle is in tip-top shape for any hazardous winter travel, too.
  • Keep gifts unwrapped. Keeping Christmas gifts unwrapped is a key tip for air travelers, who knew? If TSA decides to inspect your items during security checkpoints, they will have to be unwrapped. Keeping them unwrapped will make the process go smoother (and save you the headache of wasted wrapping efforts). Be mindful of liquid restrictions for carry-on items, as well. Be safe and pack liquid gifts in checked luggage, including those glittery holiday snow globes, too.
  • Understand COVID protocols. Before you depart, get an idea of the COVID-19 restrictions and protocols in place, as policies change often across locations. Consider packing items to keep you protected, safe and healthy during your holiday travel. Stay up to date on travel guidelines recommendations on the CDC website.
  • Consider travel insurance. It might be a good idea to consider purchasing travel insurance for air travel or if driving. If you need to make a last-minute travel update for one of your insurance-covered reasons (pending your selected policy), you could comp some of the costs.

The busiest travel season is upon us but having a plan and being prepared can help lessen the stress. Always check cancellation policies, especially as they relate to COVID-19. Consider creating a backup plan (or two) in the event of adverse weather or health issues. Be smart and stay safe when traveling this holiday season.

Check out our blog for additional travel tips.