It's the most wonderful time of the year, but there are things about the Christmas season that we dread each year too.
Finding parking at the mall, wrapping dozens of Christmas presents, and trudging through the snow all land on our holiday Naughty List. But getting through the airport to visit relatives is the worst of all. Make things easier on yourself this year, by following our advice for a stress-free holiday getaway.
To start with, if you haven't checked your family's passports and IDs, do it right now. If you need to update one, time is running out, and you don't want to leave anyone behind this Christmas. If you're leaving town for the holidays you also need to take some precautions.
Ask a neighbor to collect your mail, and maybe even to shovel your walk, or leave a car in your driveway. And avoid posting about your holiday beforehand on social media, because that just makes your house a target for thieves.
You should also warn your bank that you'll be out of town, to avoid any confusion about your credit cards.
Now pack light, print out your hotel's name and address, and head to the airport. That's where things really get tricky.
Getting your boring old luggage through security is hard enough, but getting your Christmas gifts through TSA screening is a nightmare.
First things first: give yourself an extra 30 minutes at the airport. Between snow, traffic, long lines, taking off winter clothes, and the extra luggage to check, you'll need it. And remember to tag your luggage with your address and phone number. This makes it easier to find on the carousel and saves you a headache over lost bags.
For simplicity, keep everything in your checked luggage. Your carry-on is just for in-flight essentials like snacks, books, a game for kids, etc. And you will need something to keep your kids entertained.
This is the golden rule for TSA employees: the tidier your luggage is, the less they'll hassle you. That's because if they can see everything clearly on the scanner, there's no reason to open any bags.
The other thing to remember is don't wrap your gifts, because airport security has a right to open and inspect anything you bring on a flight.
Obviously you don't want to pack any of these in your carry-on:
- Sharp objects like knives, or tools
- Large liquid containers of anything (including snow globes)
- Wine, beer, and other liquors (these count as large liquid containers)
- Toys that look like weapons
- Foodstuffs or gift baskets
There's an exception for baked goods, which are allowed but should be packed in a tight container, and may be checked closely by security agents.
When in doubt about which big items are allowed on a flight, check the TSA's list. Skis and bikes are allowed, but ice skates aren't, and there are a lot more confusing rules to sort out.
Finally, if a gift is one-of-a-kind or very important to you, keep it with you at all times and don't check it.
Remember to have fun and enjoy this holiday season safely!
Share this advice so everyone will know what to do!