Although I've seen a good chunk of the world at this point, unlike a lot of the xoTribe team, travel isn't really my thing. My mother says it's because I'm a writer and heavy thinker who tends to travel a lot in my head. There's probably some truth to that, but the bigger issue is I hate what comes with travel. Packing. Paying hundreds for tickets. Crowded airports. Ugh. But since teleporting isn't something that any of us are able to do, when we want to get somewhere as quickly as possible, airplanes are pretty much our best bet.
If every year, you tell yourself that you aren't going to wait until the last minute to make your travel plans but here you are, with only a few days before the holiday travel season officially begins, no worries. I've got some tips that can make finding flights and traveling in general a lot easier and a heck of a lot less stressful. Consider it an early Christmas present from all of us here at xoNecole—to you.
1. Be Flexible When Booking Flights
I'll be honest. In order to get the best deal, the best time to look for flights is about 6-8 weeks before you need to head out (which means this is the week to book your Christmas ticket, if you can). But, if you're like me and you always tend to wait until the last minute, flexibility is what you need in order to get a good rate. As far as Thanksgiving goes, tickets are usually the cheapest on the Monday prior to Thanksgiving (this year, that would be the 25th), on Thanksgiving (the 28th), or on Black Friday (the 29th). As far as Christmas goes, your best bet is Christmas Eve (the 24th), Christmas Day (the 25th) or the Saturday following Christmas (which on this year is the 28th).
When it comes to other flexibility tips that could save you some coins—be open to mixing and matching airlines (one airline for departing and another for coming back); be willing to not always fly direct (layovers can be annoying, but they are also pretty cost-effective); test out budget carriers like Southwest, Spirit or Frontier (US), Eurowings (Europe) or Swoop (Canada), and look for tickets that leave super early in the morning or really late at night—they are always gonna be cheaper than "standard business hour" tickets.
Oh, and if you're curious about what the worst holiday travel dates are, click here for a breakdown of those. Try and avoid those at all costs.
2. Look for Tickets in Other Currencies
Here's a hack that might trip you out. If you've done your fair share of international traveling before, you probably know that some countries have a strong currency while other countries do not. One way to save money on your flights (especially international ones) is to look for tickets that are listed under a lower currency than the American dollar. For instance, if you want to go to New York for Christmas, check to see what the price would be for a ticket via a site from another country (you can compare currency exchange rates here). While an American airline might list a ticket for $800, an Indonesian or New Zealand version of the same site could list the price for what translates into being half of that in American dollars.
While this isn't an automatic hack, it's certainly worth trying. Just make sure to use a no-foreign-transaction-fee card so that you won't incur a surcharge. Oh, and if you're going with other people, don't look for prices for all of you at once. What I mean by that is, if you search for tickets for three people to travel together, the airline is going to post the highest rate for group tickets; that's why you're better off booking one at a time. Hey, not being able to sit together might suck, but if it saves you a couple of hundred bucks in the process, it's worth it.
3. Use Bubble Wrap, Drinking Straws and Dryer Sheets
If you don't feel like bringing the bulky laptop case that your laptop typically comes in, you can always put your computer in some bubble wrap. You can either put your laptop inside a sturdy bubble wrap envelope or wrap it up yourself; that's one hack. Another? One of the things that really gets on my nerves is trying to travel with jewelry and everything getting all tangled up. One way to keep your necklaces from becoming an entangled mess is to use drinking straws. Run one part of the necklace down the straw and then clasp it to the part that is outside of the straw and—voila! No twisted-up drama. One more thing—while I'm not sure why there isn't any aromatherapy on airplanes, if you're like me and you absolutely hate the smell of planes, you can prevent the stench of them from affecting your clothing by putting some of your favorite-scented dryer sheets into your luggage. Trust me, it works.
4. Get Yourself a Charge Key
Airports have come a long way, as far as charging ports for cell phones go. But if you're someone who always seems to run out of battery life or you're notorious for losing your own charger, it's worth the money to invest in what is known as a charge key. It's the kind of charger that doubles up as a key chain that you can plug in to a USB port (like your laptop) to charge up your cell phone, anywhere, anytime. You can find a cheap tiny one on Amazon here.
5. Make Yourself a Travel-Friendly Care Package
If you already know that it's gonna be a long day of flying, something else that can make your day a lot easier is creating a care package that you can put inside of your carry-on. It can include things like a couple of your favorite snacks; a collapsible water bottle (that you can fill up with water, juice, etc. after going through security); some noise-cancelling headphones; some Advil and/or Dramamine; a travel-size of moisturizer (with a few drops of essential oil in it to make your skin smell amazing) and, some lipstick or lip gloss (never forget that!).
Speaking of carry-ons and luggage in general, if it's time for some new gear, try and go with a color other than black, red or the usual neutrals. Airports are mad busy; you can make it harder for someone to mistake your baggage for theirs if yours happens to be as unique looking as possible.
6. Digitize Your Documents
In a perfect world, nothing would ever get lost or stolen—but that is not the world that we live in. If your wallet or purse happens to go missing, it can be easy to freak out, mostly because you won't have any identification on you. One way to give yourself some peace of mind is to put the numbers to your driver's license, passport and credit cards in your smartphone. As a back-up, also email them to yourself and send them to an emergency contact too—just in case.
7. Create a Cash Decoy
If you're someone who travels with cash, one way to make sure it doesn't get stolen is to have a wallet on your body that is basically empty and to put your money into something like an empty lip balm tube that you can put into your front pants pocket. You might be surprised by how ingenious this little decoy tip actually is, especially in the midst of airport pick-pocketers.
8. Communicate with Your Airline via Social Media
If you're someone who loathes waiting on the phone to connect with an airline about something, hit them up on Twitter instead. It's kind of a trip how little this particular hack is publicized, but if you contact them via their handle or you shout-out a message with their hashtag, you might be amazed by how quickly they're respond to you. The same thing goes for TSA if you happen to have a question prior to going through security.
9. Keep a Pen Handy
Sometimes, it's the little things that can make traveling the easiest. Although most things do transpire electronically these days, it can never hurt to have a pen on hand, just in case you need to write something down. If that "something" happens to be documentation forms as it relates to international travel, while you should still keep a pen close-by, you might want to download the Mobile Passport app. It can actually expedite your entry to a lot of airports and even cruises. (Just make sure to check if it's available in your city before downloading; it's an app that's still growing.)
10. Send Gifts Ahead of You (and Insure Them)
With articles out in cyberspace like "TSA Agents Reportedly Say Body Scanners May Single Out Black Women Because of Their Hair" (SMDH), we women already have enough to contend with while going through security; the last thing that you need is to be held up because you've got too many presents in your hand. During the holiday season, TSA tends to be even stricter, so rather than making the attempt to be a personal Santa who shows up to where you are going with gifts in tow, mail them a couple of days before you leave. Just make sure that you put a return address on them (just in case) and that you also pay a little extra for insurance and delivery confirmation. Otherwise, you can always wait until you arrive to do some last-minute shopping or go the gift card route. Travel safely, y'all.
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