Keep calm and carry on: Top tips for stress-free travelling this Christmas

Dec 22, 2019

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Christmas season is a super busy time for travelling in the U.K., with airports, train and bus stations absolutely chock full of people (with plenty of baggage) all rushing to get to their destination. This can cause long queues, delays and frustration.

Here are some tips for keeping your sanity while getting to your destination during travel this Christmas.

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Think carefully about what you are packing

Presents are wonderful to give to loved ones, but they don’t tend to travel well. Big, fragile, heavy gifts are going to be tricky and uncomfortable to lug around with you. Consider if you can post items that are impractical to carry.

Be aware of the luggage limits for your entire trip (you might be coming home with more gifts than you took with you), as excess baggage charges on airlines can be horrendous. If you have a connecting flight on the same ticket you will usually be entitled to the most generous allowance of the two flights. For example, if you are taking a Club Europe flight to connect to a flight in First, British Airways will allow you the First baggage allowance for the entire journey. However it’s best to check with any specific airline you are concerned with as policies may differ.

TPG U.K.’s Family Specialist Kathleen Porter Kristiansen has written a detailed guide on tips for packing tips for travelling abroad for Christmas as a family. Some of her suggestions include:

  • Don’t wrap presents before packing them.
  • Ship presents where possible.
  • Agree on presents with relatives ahead of time.
  • Shop locally.
  • Father Christmas can do more than one present drop where practical.
In what they claim is an effort to encourage lighter packing, Spirit Airlines is raising its checked bag fees during peak holiday travel
(Photo by monticello/Shutterstock)

Give yourself extra time

You might have your standard airport run down to a fine art and know exactly how many minutes it will take you to get from door to door. But Christmas can throw all those plans out of the window. The cold weather could delay that train or the amount of extra luggage everyone is trying to check in could mean check-in takes longer than expected.

The last thing you want to do is be sprinting through a departure hall on Christmas Eve screaming at those in front of you to please get out of the way. Allow plenty of extra time for everything even if it means setting that alarm even earlier than the ungodly hour you would usually wake up at. In terms of time to get from home to your airport gate, I would allow at least 50% more at Christmas that you would usually do at other times of the year.

Related: The best way to get from Heathrow Airport to London

Consider reserving lounge access

If you have a Priority Pass membership it can be a nice way to start your trip — relaxing in an airport lounge, having a festive drink and a snack and perhaps charging your devices before a long journey. However, these lounges may be very busy during the Christmas season and you may receive a disappointing “sorry but we are full”.

It might be worth considering paying a small fee where available to reserve your place in the lounge. Some Priority Pass lounges offer a reservation fee of just £5 per person to secure a spot. While this might seem like a waste of money for a “free” lounge, if you are travelling from Gatwick on Christmas Eve, for example, it could be a very wise investment.

If you can pre-pay for Fast Track security at the airport you are travelling from, this may also be a good call.

Related: How valuable is a priority pass lounge membership?

(Photo by The Points Guy/Daniel Ross)

Be nice to staff working during the holidays

Many staff in the travel industry (particularly airline staff) will be working right through the holidays and may not be able to see their loved ones on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. They are working hard to ensure you can see yours.

If something goes wrong during your travels don’t take it out on them — you may need their assistance, so it’s beneficial to both of you if you remain calm, work through options and be on your way. Having a meltdown at an innocent airline employee because your train was delayed is not in the spirit of Christmas.

Related: What to do if you miss your flight home this Christmas

[UNVERIFIED CONTENT] Aerial view of one of Terminal 5 buildings of London Heathrow Airport and Boeing 747 and 777 aircrafts operated by British Airways at the gates on Wednesday, June 26, 2013. (Photo by Grzegorz Bajor/Getty Images)
(Photo by Grzegorz Bajor/Getty Images)

Try and stay healthy

I know this is easier said than done. The holidays are a time for eating, drinking and being merry. If you traditionally eat too much on Christmas Day you can at least try your best to stay healthy on the journey beforehand. In advance of long travel days, little sleep and a Christmas binge, try and add some balance to your travel. Rather than just flopping down at a gate or lounge for an hour, consider stretching your legs walking through a terminal — there may be some fun Christmas activities to explore.

Consider skipping the holiday breakfast pint and bacon bap and have something lighter. Going for a long walk outside when you arrive at your destination is a great way to help jet lag and help your body adjust to its new timezone and climate. If jet lag wakes you up at 5 a.m., consider going to the hotel gym for an hour rather than just tossing and turning in bed.

Related: 5 reasons to take a completely alcohol-free holiday

Remember what’s important

Travelling this time of year can be very expensive and you may be frustrated about having to spend twice what you normally would in order to travel at such a peak period. Waking up at 3 a.m. to stand in queues and argue over baggage allowances is hardly very “Christmassy”. If you miss your flight or get stung with an unexpected fee, you might resent the whole experience. But try and remember why you are doing all this — you are travelling to spend a holiday period with loves ones.

Hopefully, all of the cost, stress and time will be worth it when you arrive.

If your holiday plans don’t work out and you don’t make it where you were intending to go, there is always next year. You might be a little sad on missing out on something on the big day but these things do happen.

Stay calm, stay in control, stay cheery and Merry Christmas!

Featured image by Getty Images/Travelpix Ltd

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