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How to Survive the Holiday Travel Rush

Use these holiday travel ideas to help navigate your journey and minimize the travel headaches.

Fly Through the Airport

Airports during the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s travel rush: not words anyone loves to hear, but there are a few simple steps that can take some of the sting out of the experience. Consider signing up for TSA Precheck, which lets you speed through security without having to remove your shoes, belt, liquids, light jacket, or laptops. A five-year membership runs $85, which pays for itself in time and stress saved, especially if you already fly with some frequency. It also pays to keep tabs on your flight status online, via the airline’s website or your favorite travel app. Often you’ll find the option to check in online, skipping even more airport-wait time.

Pack Light

How many times have you overpacked when traveling? A simple trick to lighten the load is to lay out all the clothing you’re thinking of taking, then remove one item of each kind of garment. You’ll have less to lug around, and slimming things down can help avoid the time and fees to check bags at the airport. And if you’re going home for the holidays, or to a villa resort like The Westin Kierland Villas or Sheraton Vistana Resort, you’ll have a full-size washer and dryer ready to go any time you need to do a quick load of laundry.

Plot Activities Along Your Route

If you’re driving this year — especially with kids — and time allows, try to think ahead and keep a lookout for unusual roadside attractions to help break up the time. Have you ever seen the giant dinosaurs towering 30 feet above I-10 in Cabazon, California? Or the World’s Largest Ball of Twine in Cawker City, Kansas? Even pulling off at a scenic park or having a family picnic at a well-maintained rest area along the way can do wonders for breaking up the monotony.

Mail the Gifts

Often, paying to ship items ahead of time costs less than paying fees for checking individual items at the airport. And, as Travel+Leisure agrees, certain kinds of items that may make great gifts (like a nice chef’s knife set) are definite no-go’s for the TSA. Or avoid costs and hassles altogether by bringing gift cards as presents for everyone.

Have the Apps

Before you go, download travel apps to check flights, rent cars, and more. These days, there’s an app for just about everything, especially travel. You’ll always have up-to-date information at hand, and you won’t have to keep track of a pile of printouts and loose papers.