Many small-business owners spend a fair amount of time on the road. But no matter how often you travel for business, your experience does nothing to prepare you for taking a family trip during the holiday season. Traveling with your spouse, partner, and/or children at peak times is really a whole different ballgame.
Here are four tips for making travel during the holidays as pleasant as possible.
1. Book farther in advance. If you have a family, especially one with small kids, you’ll want to sit together on the airplane. Save yourself some stress and horse-trading by booking well in advance. There are fewer seats available for advance seat assignment (without a fee) these days, and the longer you wait to book, the less likely you are to find them. Book earlier and you’ll have your pick of seats. Booking farther in advance won’t always be the cheapest option, but it will make your journey much easier. (Besides, travel during the holidays isn’t going to be cheap, anyway.) How far in advance should you book? Most traditional airlines let you book up to 330 days before your flight, but you don’t have to wait by your computer for that day to come. Even 4 months out will often give you plenty of options during the holidays.
2. Pay for your checked bags before you leave home. If you travel a lot, you may have elite status and thus not have to pay to check your luggage. However, you may have to fly a different airline than your usual one to get to the in-laws’ house. In any case, check-in online and pay for your bags before you leave for the airport. It makes it easier to just get your bag tagged when you arrive. The less you have to deal with at the airport, the better!
3. Arrive at the airport early. Road warriors often perfect the art of arriving at the airport with just enough time to board a flight without having to sit around. Don’t play that game over the holidays. A ton of inexperienced travelers take their one yearly trip during this time; thus, airports are often crowded and lines move slowly. If you’re traveling with kids, they need more time, too — to go to the bathroom, to get food, or to walk alongside you. Give yourself and your companions a nice big buffer of time, so you don’t watch your airplane pushing back from the gate without you on it.
4. Be patient. On family and holiday trips, things rarely go as smoothly as they usually do when you fly alone. That’s just the way it is. So, try to be as patient as possible. Your vacation will be a much better experience for you and your family if you are prepared to roll with the punches. (This also may help you deal with your extended family for a full week.)