Holiday Travel Survival Guide - Part I of III - Flying

The holidays are approaching, and that can only mean one thing - the desperate search for cheap and pain-free-as-possible trips home (wherever that may be).

Because I've been traveling far too much lately, and suffering accordingly, I figure I should put my experience to good use and spread some wisdom about how to prepare for the expense and madness the holiday travel season brings.

This post is the first of three, focusing on air travel. Wednesday's post will focus on driving, and Friday's will give you a final bunch of tips to help even if you're spending the hols at your local watering hole, going no farther than a few stops on the tube, or simply walking downstairs.


The airlines with usually cheap deals (traveling coach, of course) are:

For those headed overseas, try Air Transat
Air Canada usually has decent deals for Canada and the usual major US cities
West Jet has similar prices, but I've heard rumors of bad service.

Travelocity is a great way to compare prices on bunch of airlines at once. There aren't reviews though, so ask around, just in case.

Transat has *no* legroom, so try and get the emergency exit seat (good advice for any airline). AC is, in my experience, the safest bet - last year I was booked to fly out of Toronto on Xmas eve on Delta and the flight was cancelled because of that major snowstorm - I managed to get on an AC flight that, although left late (after spending just under an hour in a de-icer) did actually leave unlike most other flights out of YYZ. And strangely it didn't cost all that much more.

To avoid trauma at security, wear sneakers or similar to travel - big clunky boots will just mean sock feet and/or a quick frisk (which is never quick enough). Belts and underwire bras are other beep-inducers, so, you know, wear pants that fit and go without that extra support.

If you have any particular dietary needs (diabetic, GI, vegetarian, vegan) be sure to take care of that when you book, or at least 72 hours before the flight (by calling the customer service line). And expect the food to be crap - I've read that the lack of flavour is due to the recycled air or pressure or something which renders the taste buds less sensitive. Whatever the reason, it's not exactly a four-star meal. If you're in for a long haul, consider bringing your own sandwich/granola bar/apple, whatever.

Also, I suggest bringing a bottle of water - you only get those little tiny cups and flying is really dehydrating (lotion is also a good idea).

Chewing gum helps with that whole ear-popping thing on take-off and landing (as does yawning).

If you're meeting someone at the airport, do yourself a favour and freshen up about 40 minutes before arrival time (they'll have you buckle up about 20 minutes before arrival for the 'final descent') - wash your face, retouch make-up and/or shave (airplane loos still have shaver-plugs, those with bare razors may want to wait until touchdown), and brush your teeth (especially if you've partaken of the food).

Keep the grooming accoutrement in your carry-on. Along with your water, gum, a book or magazine, mp3 player, passport, keys, phone (assuming you get service where you're headed, if not, bring change for the phone booth) and sweater for when the plane gets cold.

The best piece of advice I can give? Travel light - one carry-on, one suitcase; and get one with wheels (with room to spare).

Advice for the road warriors on Wednesday.

image courtesy of kidscoop

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