Beautiful happy family decorating the christmas tree at home

Over the Hills and through the Woods …

One in three Americans will travel during the upcoming holiday – Wed., Dec. 23 through Sun., Jan. 3.1 This is in spite of predictions of massive traffic tie-ups and possible winter storms out west, people still plan to hit the roads, rails and skies to celebrate the season with family and friends.

Thanks to the lowest gas prices in recent memory, AAA predicts 90% of Americans1 will take to the nation’s highways. And with domestic airfares down 6% from last year (average cost = $174 round trip), you can expect America’s airports to be bustling.2

So, if you’re traveling anytime during the holidays, here are some tips to help you arrive at your destination on time and in time for the celebrations:

1. With more and more people expected to fly this holiday, expect security at airports to be extremely heavy. Check with your airline or airport to see how long wait times are for security checkpoints and plan accordingly. Your airlines also will let you know if you have an earlier gate time.

2. Check-in online. This will help you avoid long lines at the check-in gates. With your pre-printed boarding pass, you’ll go straight to the security lines. That is, if you follow the next suggestion.

3. Pack a carry-on (make sure it’s the correct size). Avoid checking luggage and the baggage claim areas after the flight. Plus, if your flight should get cancelled, you’ll have your bag with you.

4. If you’re considering bringing gifts, consider shipping them separately ahead of time. It’s one less thing to worry about the day you fly.

5. If your travel plans allow it, consider taking the train. AMTRAK is offering last-minute holiday sales and special deals to destinations across the country. Since demand for holiday berths aboard a train are not in as great a demand as those of the airlines, “riding the rails” may be the way to go. Plus, it’s a leisurely way to get to your destination.

Family Unloading Christmas Gifts6. If you’re hitting the road this season, please keep these tips in mind:

a. Have your car thoroughly checked out by your mechanic before heading out. Make sure tires and fluids are winterized. Weather conditions may change dramatically between where you start and where you finish your journey.

b. Have plenty of water, fruit and snacks – hearty (sandwiches) and light (chips, etc.). You may find your drive time increased due to heavy traffic and will want something to munch on while you make your way to your destination.

c. If you’re traveling with children, make sure you pack plenty of videos, books and quiet activities/games to ensure you don’t hear those four dreaded words – “Are we there yet?”

d. A long car ride is the perfect opportunity to get the entire family involved in some games. Consider playing Spot that License Plate, I’m Going on a Picnic (A person starts by saying, “I’m going on a picnic, and I’m bringing …; next person repeats what the first person says, but must add something that starts with the letter ‘A,’ such as apple; ‘B,’ bug spray; and so on), 20 Questions, or I Spy. A family sing along also is a great way to pass the time.

7. Always carry some cash. There are so many outside factors that can contribute to the challenges of traveling during the holidays – weather, in particular, is one of the worst offenders. Consider this scenario: The roads are impassable. Trees have pulled power lines down – there’s not electricity. Heavy holiday online traffic has crashed the Internet, and your hotel can’t run your credit card. Having cash will help you secure the room until systems are back up. Now, aren’t you glad you brought cash? Be sure to carry your cash in a neck wallet or money belt.

Brother and sister baking cookies8. A final piece of advice: As Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts says – “Pack some patience.” Remember the goal is not just to arrive, but arrive safe and sound.

1 Kathy Stewart. “AAA: Holiday travel could break records.” WTOP-TV. Dec. 15, 2015.

2 Megan Trimble. “Christmas 2015 travel survival guide: Weather, road condition, air travel and more.” Penn Live. Dec. 18, 2015.