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The holiday season is the biggest travel season of the year, and traveling during the holiday season, especially with kids, can be super stressful. AAA forecasted that 112.5 million people traveled in the holiday season in 2018, and sometimes it feels every single one of them is in the airport with you at once! Here are 5 ways to keep your sanity if you have to navigate the airport while traveling this holiday season.
A little bit of planning goes a long wayEspecially if you are flying with young kids, make sure that you are planning your travel smartly. Yes, that red-eye flight or 6 hour layover looks like it wonât be a problem back several months ago when you booked the flight, but now that itâs impending, you might be starting to second-guess yourself. If you do find yourself in an unenviable situation, donât just ignore it. Make a plan for it (and if youâre traveling with young kids, you might as well make 2 or 3 backup plans too!)
Keep track of your flights
One of the things that I highly recommend is to keep track of your flight reservations. Every couple of weeks, log on to the airlineâs account and make sure that your flights still have the same time and you still have the same seats that you picked (if your ticket allows you to pick seats). Airlines are changing their flight schedules all the time, and the more time you have to make changes, the better. The worst thing that can happen is that you donât find out about a flight change or an aircraft swap until the day before, when there isnât much you can do.
Another thing I usually do, starting the day before my flight when I check-in, is to look at where my flights are, and where those planes are coming from. I use FlightAware.com to do that kind of research – you can put in your airline and flight number and it will show you not only the status of YOUR flight, but also where your plane is now.
By looking at where my plane is now, I usually know about flight delays BEFORE the airline itself acknowledges it. More information can help you plan your day and get a leg up on making alternate arrangements should you need it
Consider an airport lounge
If you do have an extended layover in an airport, you might want to consider checking if your airline has an airport lounge and how much it costs for entrance. Many credit cards come with access to the Priority Pass network of lounges, which allow you complimentary airport lounge access.
If you donât have a credit card that gives lounge access, you can investigate how much it costs for a day pass. Most lounges cost $30-$50 for a day pass, though many admit children under 12 for free. Generally I wouldnât recommend paying that much for a day pass, but it depends on your situation. Look at what you might pay for food and drinks at an airport restaurant and you may find that a day pass to an airport lounge isnât that much more.
In addition to a quieter place than the terminal and complimentary food and drinks, many airport lounges have a separate childrenâs area which can be a lifesaver on a long layover.
Sign up for TSA PreÂ® Â
Another travel benefit that comes with some credit cards is a $100 credit towards Global Entry membership. If you have Global Entry membership, you also generally will receive TSA Pre on your domestic flights. Depending on where and when youâre traveling, this could be a huge lifesaver to keep you from spending a ton of time waiting in an endless airport security line.
Many of the credit cards that give Global Entry / TSA Pre are premium cards with annual fees north of $450. But here are a few cards with smaller annual fees, including some that waive the annual fee the first year.
- IHGÂ® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card – $89 annual fee
- United Explorerâ Card – $95 annual fee; waived the first year
- Southwest Rapid RewardsÂ® Performance Business Credit Card – $199 annual fee
Be smart about checked bags vs carry-ons
Our final tip to keep your sanity in airports while traveling this holiday season is to take a step back and consider whether checking bags is better for your situation than just taking carry-ons. There are pros and cons to both situations and you need to decide what works best for you. Our family of 8 has done it both ways. When our kids were younger, with all the baby gear we toted around, we tended to check bags. Southwest Airlines and their 2 free checked bags on every flight were huge – I remember a Southwest flight to Reno where between checked bags, carry-ons, strollers and car seats, we lugged 17 pieces of luggage through the airport! Weâve now gone more towards not checking bags and just taking carry-on luggage. Not only does that save on bag fees, we also donât have to wait at baggage claim or worry about the airline losing our luggage. But my kids are now all old enough where they can take care of their own carry-on luggage. If you have younger kids who canât manage their own rollerboards in the airport, then you might consider checking your bags, even if you have to pay extra for it. You donât want to have to be lugging around multiple suitcases through the airport on top of making sure your kids stay happy and safe.
I hope these tips have given you some ideas to de-stress your holiday airport travel. Got another tip? Leave it in the comments!
The post How to Navigate the Airport Rush During the Holidays appeared first on MintLife Blog.
Iâve been laying low the last five months, my passport safely tucked into my desk drawer awaiting the worldâs re-opening.
Like you, Iâve missed travel. Especially as summer winds down, and the sun sets a few minutes later every night, Iâve found myself daydreaming of returning to the proverbial road.
Sure, Iâve been road tripping, camping and entertaining myself domestically as far as my imagination can take me over these months. But thereâs nothing that feeds my soul quite like crossing a border.
While most borders across the world are still closed to U.S. passport holders, Iâve not only started to seriously think about when an international trip might be right for me, but I also did something a little crazy this week.
I booked a trip to Mexico for September.
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What is and isnât possible
Letâs be honest, Mexico was never high on my list of places to travel for 2020. Before COVID-19, my wandering sights were set on exploring much more exotic destinations this year like Uzbekistan, Guyana and the Apulia region of Italy, from which my family migrated.
In a world without a pandemic, my autumn travel plan was to spend late September in the Marquesas islands of French Polynesia, celebrating a big 50th birthday of one of my dearest friends and fellow points collectors.
As things have begun to slowly open up over the last months, my friend and I have had a million conversations discussing if there might be somewhere other than a Zoom birthday party where we could safely celebrate half a century. As you might remember, I have high expectations for celebrating milestone birthdays.
As weâve contemplated if itâs safe and smart to actually think about international birthday travel right now, we set a few guidelines on our planning:
- Places far away where we wouldnât want to get stuck are off limits.
- Any plans we make have to be fully cancelable.
- There must be sunshine and water at the destination.
- We must be able to pay with points.
- Destinations with a 14-day arrival quarantine wonât work.
- The CaribbeanÂ isnât an option (if your birthday falls in the middle of an extremely active hurricane season).
With the big birthday getting closer each week, Iâve been paying more attention to possibilities as well as all the deals that keep filling up my inbox. Then, when Hyatt announced their new Work from Hyatt deal this week, it got me thinking: letâs plan a trip to Cabo.
See related: Can we safely return to sleeping in hotels?
How weâll get there
From Portland, Oregon (my COVID-19 home base), Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, is an easy flight. There is plenty of sun and a lot of options to plan a refundable trip on points.
A large percentage of Caboâs resorts have reopened since June, both requiring mask-wearing in public areas and limiting occupancy to 30%. And while the ban for land crossings at the Mexico-U.S. border has been extended to Sept. 21, air travel between the two countries is not (and has never been) restricted.
The birthday trip is still a month away â and in 2020, almost anything could happen in the next four weeks â but hereâs what weâve got planned:
- One beautiful week looking at the Pacific Ocean from an oceanfront room at The Cape (a Thompson Hotel).
- Flights to and from Portlandâs PDX to Cabo San Lucas’ SJD (one way on American Airlines miles and one way on Alaska Airlines, using a cash credit from a different trip canceled due to coronavirus).
We picked The Cape because itâs a small boutique resort known for its secluded location, ocean views and amazing copper-plated freestanding tubs in the majority of its rooms. (OK, this wasnât actually a deciding factor, but I do get very excited about a room with a good bath tub since resort spas are still closed.).
While not a Hyatt property, Thompson Hotels is an independent brand affiliated with Hyatt, meaning you can use your World of Hyatt points for a stay in a smaller, upscale property.
At 25,000 points per night, the five-night reservation came to a total of 125,000 points earned on my World of Hyatt Credit Card. In non-pandemic times I would likely consider that to be a ton of points for a single trip to Mexico, but since I havenât used a Hyatt point in months (besides for one quick hotel experiment) and because itâs a big birthday celebration, it seems a reasonable redemption. The reservation is also refundable up to 24 hours before arrival.
American, Alaska, Delta, Southwest and United are all currently operating flights into SJD. From Portlandâs PDX, I found a good redemption via Phoenix (PHX) on American for 17,500 points and $31 in taxes. As an American Airlines Executive Platinum eliteÂ member, I can cancel this award ticket at any time without penalty or fee, so booking it now was pretty risk-free.
Taxes flying out of Mexico back to the U.S. are considerably higher (to the tune of $100-plus), so on this end I opted to book a paid Alaska Airlines flight via San Jose using the balance from this yearâs travel refunds. Alaska Airlines has also extended its travel waiver, allowing you to cancel any ticket booked before Sept. 8 for a full credit. Again, I felt like I had nothing to lose.
See related: How to change your travel plans when you booked with rewards
Am I certain it will be safe to travel to Cabo San Lucas in September? I honestly have no idea. I have, however, future-proofed my plan from the outset, and I know that even if Icho ose to cancel this big birthday booking the day before, I have very little to lose.
Iâll be keeping my eyes on the news in Cabo and make a final decision if I feel comfortable to travel closer to departure. For now, Iâm excited to at least have a plan to use my passport again and hope for some September sunshine and horizons.