A Holiday Travel How-To Guide

The older I get, the harder it is for me to figure out what the heck I should buy for my friends and family during the holidays. We have enough stuff, so what else do we really need? I think this is why I’m more prone to gravitate towards experiences or moments that we can have together. So, when my mom pulled me aside this year and asked if we could all go somewhere as a family instead of buying each other gifts – I was so on board. Sometimes moms are just freakin’ mind-readers.

Travelling during the holidays sounds pretty stressful to most people. But in actuality, it really doesn’t have to be that much different than any trip you would take during the rest of the year! The biggest issues can arise with logistics – how to get a good price on your trip, what to pack, making sure that you are actually off for the holidays from work, how to sneak in some gifts (or sneak back some gifts), and so much more.

So, that’s why I’m gonna give you an early gift in the form of some of my favourite travel hacks for the holidays, in my handy “How-to Guide”. Oh, and you’re welcome – I’ll just take my gift from you later.

How to Travel During the Best Times and Avoid the Worst

You may be surprised to discover that travelling on the actual holiday itself isn’t really that bad, so much as the days surrounding them. But hey, this might be old news to you by now if you’re a seasoned pro at getting home or away for the holidays. For those of you who haven’t mastered this task yet, the best way forward is to plan your travel days by staying on top of which days are best suited for you.

Last year, I decided to take a trip to Grand Cayman right around the holidays (cause I have such tough life, I know), but I was so worried about the logistics – I had usually avoided holiday travel because I had no idea how easy it actually could be. So that’s why I decided to give KAYAK a shot for the first time! Using KAYAK’s Flexible Dates Search tool, you can see how much you’ll save by having some wiggle room on your arrival and departure dates. Simply select your intended dates for travel and then choose from a drop down menu to search up to 3 days before and after those dates. This was a huge help in deciding on which days I would travel, in order to make the most out of my trip!

How to Pack Efficiently

Do you pack ahead of time or are you one of those people who stays up late the night before or frantically shoves your stuff into bags on the morning before you head out? Obviously, staying as organized as possible is key, but that may be easier said than done at times. In my years of globe-trotting, I’ve found that packing less is more. Most of the time, you won’t wear everything that you think you need and will likely revert right back to those familiar items, which allow you the freedom and comfort to get on with your exploring. Also, having everything ready and easily accessible, in order to get through security, is key for seamless airport experiences – and for saving you from getting into meltdown mode during busy holiday travel times.

That being said, believe it or not, I am someone who often enjoys going through airport security! There is something reassuring about seeing all the physical security systems like body scanners and turnstiles that puts my mind at ease about flying. It is no secret that these and a host of other turnstile gates are at the airport to keep us all safe after all.

When packing for the holidays, I would suggest bringing one nice thing to wear, if you go out or for when you have your holiday meal with friends or family. Also, rolling instead of folding, has always been my go-to. You can utilize your space properly, help to decrease wrinkles or lines and allow for room to bring stuff home with you – cause sometimes we forget about that part while we’re violently shoving stuff back into our bags, trying to make it all fit back in!

How to Give Gifts on the Go

If you can’t fit actual gifts into your luggage (cause a pony isn’t something you can just smuggle onto an airplane these days), then I would suggest the idea of leaning more towards experiences or moments together, in lieu of things. These can be planned ahead or while on the go! If you can book them while you’re booking your initial travel, you can actually find ways to save money as well – if you grab them in a package deal.

KAYAK’s Travel App allows you to organize, manage and share your trip itinerary acting as a one-stop shop for planning a great vacation…from anywhere! Meaning, you can even book activities, hotels, cars and extra trips while you’re in the midst of your holiday travel. I truly believe that you’ll value the time spent together, rather than just more stuff you likely don’t need – and it’s just such a cool idea!

But as I mentioned before, I’ll be travelling with my family for the holidays this year, so my mother asked me if there was anything from our “gift giving traditions” that we should bring along with us. For example, she goes out of her way every year to buy a chocolate letter for each of our names. And yes, my chocolate C is always super gross and kinda waxy, but I have come to expect it and I freakin’ eat it every Christmas morning. It’s just become something that makes us laugh every year (and one year she didn’t give us one and we were all completely appalled, like come on Heather, get it together). So, I did request that she packs these – because, it would feel weird to skip this strange family tradition. You’ve just gotta do you, right?

How Not to Break the Bank

Shopping around is always important when it comes to finding the best deals for your trip. I don’t know about you, but I’m just not into wasting my money! Using KAYAK, you can search hundreds of travel sites at once to get the information you need to find the right flight, hotel or rental car – all in one place! This, paired with KAYAK’s unique tools and features, provides travellers with a more complete picture of their options. You can then use their Explore tool, which shows you all of the places you can fly to within a certain price range and then you can filter by flight length, in order to find the perfect spot.

Disclaimer: it’s super easy to get distracted by this tool while you’re supposed to be working, and then you look at the clock and it’s been 3 hours and then you get all existential and wonder where your life has gone and what you’ve been doing with it. Not speaking from very specific and direct experience or anything. Just saying.

If you want to make sure that you never miss a deal, be sure to sign up for KAYAK’s Price Alerts to know when prices change for the flight or hotel you want. You can even receive customized alerts sent directly to your inbox or mobile phone. Using their Price Forecast option, you can book your trip with confidence by being able to see the likelihood of your flight price rising within the next 7 days – so you know whether to book now or later. Planning on taking a few one-way flights on your holiday trip? KAYAK’s Hacker Fares lets you combine two one-way tickets that together make a round-trip flight, so you can get to and from your destination for less than you would if it were a regular round-trip flight!

How to Travel Smarter, Not Harder

Now, we talked about how important is it to plan ahead. But, remember that when things don’t go as planned, you’re still going to have a great time! It’s all about attitude, folks (I can feel you rolling your eyes, now stop it). I would suggest knowing a bit about your destination, about the airports you’re travelling to and from, and how the transportation system works in order to get around. If you’re headed to a place where they speak another language, it might be worth brushing up on some key terms or having a translator app readily available and on hand. A lot of people learning English, for example, will use lessons online like at Effortless-English-Club. I mean, how are you going to hit on the sexy Italian man if you can’t speak his language? Oh, wait or is that just me? This just got awkward…

You’ll be a seasoned pro at holiday travel if you keep yourself organized by using KAYAK Trips, which is your free personal travel assistant. There, you can organize, manage and share your trip itinerary with others. You can also receive real-time flight status alerts, so that you can plan accordingly. Using this assistant before you travel allows you to save your favourite results to track prices before you buy them. Or, if anything happens and you need to switch your flights – you have a one-stop-shop that covers all your travel needs right at your fingertips.

Now go out there and start skipping the conventional holiday plans – cause you’ve got this in the bag. Oh, and you can let me know when I’ll get my gift in return. I wasn’t kidding.

Start your holiday travel planning today at KAYAK.com or by downloading the app on your mobile device.

Also, be sure to follow along with my Instagram account! For more information and helpful tips, make sure to stay up to date with all things Health & Nutrition on my website, Catherine’s Cabinet.

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In health,
Catherine Sugrue, CNP
Holistic Nutritionist

Photos by Catherine Sugrue
*Please note that this is a sponsored post – our disclosure can be found at all times by clicking here. This post has been created in partnership with KAYAK.