Whether you are visiting family in another state or taking a vacation at an overseas location, holiday travel can be stressful, crowded and expensive. No matter how much you plan, you always have cranky travelers, long lines through customs, delayed flights or a combination of all of these. You can’t control everything about your holiday flight plans, but here are 10 invaluable tips you can’t pass up.

1. Create an ultimate check-list

There are so many things you need to do when you travel for the holidays. You might think that you can keep a mental list in check, but statistically you are bound to forget something. Make things easier on yourself, and create an ultimate check-list. This list should include all of your major, important tasks as well as the little things that matter. If you like, create pre-flight, flight and post-flight check-lists so that you can better keep track of what you need to get done at specific times.

2. Shop around for the best travel deals

Air travel is a popular commodity, and everyone claims to have the best deals. Don’t let the hype get to you, though. And don’t limit yourself to searching for flights on one site. Shop around to see who really has the best deals, and enjoy your savings. Often, airlines offer better deals to customers who buy directly from them rather than using a middleman.

3. Fly nonstop or plan out connecting cities

Oftentimes, nonstop flights are less expensive and take less of your time. If it’s possible for your destination, book a nonstop flight. However, if you have to connect, select your connecting cities wisely. It is not unusual for some cities to be more prone to weather delays during the holidays than others. Check the weather forecasts for your connecting city options, and plan accordingly.

4. Travel at non-peak times and days

Holiday travel is so much easier when you avoid traveling at peak times or busy days. Ideally, you should book your flight at least a little before a holiday. Try not to travel on a weekend or during midday. Book your flights early in the day or late at night. The best days for travel are usually, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

5. Pack strategically

When you travel, keep in mind the luggage restrictions you must follow. These restrictions differ a little for every airline, so make sure you check online. You can try to travel with a carry-on only, but don’t be afraid to check a bag depending on what your needs are.

6. Give yourself extra time for airport security

Leave for the airport early to allow enough time to get through security checkpoints. Make allowances for traffic as well. Most airlines have a maximum of eight hours before your flight that you can check-in. Use this time to get through customs well before your scheduled flight.

7. Make plans for your ground transportation in advance

The difficulty of holiday travel doesn’t end when you flight lands. Ground travel is bound to be crowded and busy too. So make plans in advance. Know exactly how you will be traveling to your local destination. There are many private cars and limos available to drive you where you need to go. Sometimes local buses or free shuttles are available as well.

8. Take snacks and entertainment for your flight

Airport food and in-flight snacks are notoriously pricey. Try to pack some snacks ahead of time, so that you have more choices in the food you eat without emptying your pocket. Also take some form of entertainment. Netflix or DVDs are great ways to entertain yourself if you have a particularly long flight.

9. Use the Internet to make your trip more convenient

Traveling for the holidays is stressful. Use amenities available online to make your trip a little easier. For example, you can use your airline’s online check-in to beat the lines. You can also print your boarding passes at home.

10. Relax and try to stay calm

Whatever happens during your trip, try to stay relaxed. Just remember that it is the holidays. One of the happiest times of the year. Don’t let a cranky traveler or a testy TSA person upset you. Stay calm, and carry on. You’ll be just fine.

These are 10 invaluable tips for holiday travel. How do you deal with the crowds and the stress? Do you have any cool tips to offer?

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