TRAVEL TIPS EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW
The holiday season is a time for spending with your loved ones or, if you're lucky, going off on a bucket list adventure, and sometimes, that may require a little bit (or a lot) of travelling.
Travelling in the winter, depending where you live and/or where you're travelling to, can be drastically different than travelling in the summertime, so today I thought I would share some basic travel tips (including some that are "winter specific") to help get you through that long (or short, if you're lucky) journey home (or across the world) for the holidays.
As someone who's main talent is over-packing, I may not be the best person to preach about packing efficiently ... but I'm going to anyway. One of the easiest ways to pack is to plan outfits ahead of time, but that can sometimes be difficult if you aren't going somewhere where the weather is always consistent. So instead, pack a few of each type of basic. So, for example: 2 t-shirts, 2 long sleeve shirts, 2 nicer tops, 2 pairs of jeans, 2 pairs of nicer pants, 1-2 dresses or skirts, and so on. Obviously, this can be altered based on your destination and your personal style, but the basic point is: try to pack only a couple of each item to avoid overpacking.
Another great way to ensure you're packing efficiently is to use either the roll method (literally, roll your clothes up) or use packing cubes or smaller pouches to organize your suitcase. I use both of these methods: roll my clothes and use pouches to organize and contain things like toiletries, makeup, accessories, and electronics.
Anyone that's gone on either a family road trip or (worse) flown somewhere for a family vacation is probably familiar with how parents (mainly moms, let's be honest) like to wake up HOURS early to make sure you're out the door on time. As a kid, I hated this and always felt sick from waking up so early and just didn't understand why we had to leave so dang early!! But now that I'm older and more experienced, I understand completely, especially when you're flying somewhere.
If you're going on a road trip, your schedule may not be a strict as if you're flying somewhere, but you should still try to have your car packed and leave a bit early in case of weather or traffic or whatever else might happen on the road to slow you down.
TIPS FOR FLYING DURING THE HOLIDAY SEASON (Tip 1: don't)
The holiday season is the craziest time for air travel, so make sure you plan ahead appropriately using these tips:
You always want to try and be at the airport early, so leave your house a little earlier than you think you need to, especially in the winter. You never know what might be happening on the roads during the winter, especially in Canada, so plan a few extra minutes for slower driving.
At some airports (I've really only flown out of Pearson, so I can't promise you it's the same at every airport in across the globe), you can check-in and print your boarding pass yourself at individual kiosks, so this can save you time waiting in line for the counter (but you might have to wait behind a couple of people for a kiosk to open up). Some flights even have the option to pull up your boarding pass on your phone, so you can by-pass these lines altogether (and help the planet just a smidge).
If you can avoid checking a bag, I definitely recommend this as you may be able to bypass some lines before or after your flight.
Have all of your travel documents handy and ready-to-go at all times (but don't forget them somewhere). Whenever we travelled to Florida when I was a kid, I remember my mom would always have what seemed like a thousand documents printed off and paper-clipped together, along with our 3 passports. I always thought it seemed so complicated, but thinking back, I have literally no idea why she always had so many documents ... we only ever needed our boarding passes and passports ... oh well.
Bring your own snacks* and an empty water bottle so you can avoid paying millions of dollars inside the airport or on the flight for snacks you don't even really like and to avoid dehydrating. It's actually quite surprising what kinds of food/snacks airlines allow you to bring. *Make sure you research the airport you're flying out of as well as the airline you're travelling with, to ensure the snacks you plan to bring are allowed.
If you have to take multiple flights, try to space them out as much as you can without ending up with too much time to sit around. This way, if there's a delay with your first flight, you'll (hopefully) still be able to make your second flight on time. And if there's no delay (yeah, right), you'll have some extra time to stretch your legs, grab something to eat, make any calls you need to, etc.
Relating to #6, try be prepared mentally and emotionally if there's delays or cancellations. Even in 2018, things can go wrong with planes and Mother Nature straight up doesn't give a f*ck if you're flying home to your family for the holidays. As terrible a situation as it is, try to stay calm and level-headed if there's delays or cancellations. Whenever something happens that impedes my plans, I just try to tell myself that it was meant to happen for a reason, that the universe is just doing it's job, and I swear it makes me feel better. If not, just blame the universe and don't yell at the poor woman working at the airline ticket counter. It's not her fault.
GOING THROUGH AIRPORT SECURITY
Use the plastic bags they give you for your liquids and DON'T throw them away when you reach your destination (you can use them for your return trip or for future trips so they don't go to waste). If you're flying for your first time or have previously not thought to keep the airport bags, the required size is a 1 QUART (100 ML or 3.4OZ) plastic bag.
Make sure your carry-on bag(s) are organized ahead of time! This way, you'll know exactly where everything is that you need to take out when going through security (bag of liquids, laptop, other electronics, passport and boarding pass, etc.) so you don't hold up the line behind you or make a mess pulling everything out of your bags. If you're bringing a small suitcase and a purse or backpack, don't pack anything in your suitcase that will need to be taken out. Keep your laptop, passport, liquids, etc. in your purse or backpack so you aren't rifling through two bags, holding up the line and making a mess. (This doesn't guarantee the security agents won't rifle through your suitcase themselves, but if you pack properly and you're lucky, you'll probably be fine).
Keep any medications separate from your bag of liquids and DON'T put them in your checked baggage (to avoid a medical headache if your bags don't make it to your destination, or in case airport officials need further clarification about your medications). I've always placed my asthma inhaler in my bag of liquids because it's an aerosol and have never had any issues, so play it by ear depending on what medications you may be bringing.
If you are wearing any, make sure you know/remember ahead of time where on your body there might be metal. Meaning, don't forget to take off your belt and watch, remove the loose change or your cell phone from your pocket, etc. In very specific medical circumstances where you may have metal inside of your body or prosthetics, make sure you have the appropriate (if there is any applicable to your situation) documentation in case the metal detectors go off. Also, be prepared to undergo a pat down or further security examination if this is this case.
Wear clothes that you know are easy to remove and put back on, such as shoes that don't need to be untied/re-tied, and wear socks so your naked feet aren't touching the cold, nasty floor. If you plan to wear a sweater or hoodie, make sure you wear a t-shirt underneath in case they ask you to remove the sweater (or just take the sweater off ahead of time).
If you're someone that travels frequently, consider getting TSA Pre-Check, Global Entry, Nexus, etc. but keep in mind, not all airports have the Pre-Check (or similar) lanes open at all times.
TIPS FOR TRAVELLING BY CAR DURING THE WINTER
Depending on what kind of car you have, where you live, and where you're driving to, these tips may or may not apply to you, but definitely give them a read just to be safe.
SNOW TIRES. Living in Canada, it's pretty important to have the proper tires for the conditions you'll be driving in; not just for road trips, but for everyday commuting in the winter. Obviously, they can be pretty pricey, especially depending on what type of vehicle you have, so it's really your decision. However; if you can swing it, I would HIGHLY recommend investing in some snow tires. They could literally save your life.
Get your oil changed (and anything else that may need tuning up or fixing) right before you leave (if you're travelling a long distance).
Similarly, top up your wiper fluid and even bring an extra jug with you if you have the room. Even though it's cold and snow-y, I find I use a LOT of wiper fluid on the nasty, slushy highways during the winter. Play it by ear, but change your wiper blades before your trip, too; some people recommend even changing them every season.
Put together an trip kit for your vehicle, including all the basics: an empty gas can (or full, if you have exterior storage), jumper cables, salt/cat litter/grids for traction, flashlight and extra batteries, blanket/towel, a can of Fix-A-Flat (or something similar) and an air pump, a small/basic toolkit, gloves, a small pylon or flares, a small fire extinguisher, a jack (make sure you purchase the right size based on your vehicle's weight).
Put together a small, basic first aid kit to keep inside your vehicle: emergency numbers and contact numbers for family/friends, sterile gauze in various sizes, adhesive tape, roller and triangular bandages, bandaids in various sizes, scissors and tweezers, safety pins, an instant cold pack, non-latex gloves, antiseptic wipes or soap, eye drops or wash solution, thermometer, pocket mask and/or face shield (for performing mouth-to-mouth), first aid manual, pencil and pad.
Try not to let your gas get lower than 1/4 or even 1/2 tank. You never know what might happen, where you might get stuck, etc. so you don't want to risk running out of gas, especially in the winter.
DRIVE SAFE!!!! I could do a whole post just ranting about sh*tty winter drivers, but I'll spare you and leave you with these tips: ○ (link) Defensive driving ○ Leave room between yourself and the vehicle ahead of you in case you all have to stop suddenly; this way, you can avoid sliding into other vehicles. ○ DO NOT cut off other drivers, especially vehicles bigger than you and even more especially, transports. ○ If you can't see, DON'T PASS and don't weave in and out of traffic like a lunatic. You don't want to end up like Clark Griswold.
○ Remain distraction-free. If you're driving alone, set up a playlist and your directions ahead of time so you don't have to worry about it while you're driving. If you're driving with passengers, put someone in charge of music/podcasts and directions. ○ Put your phone on Do Not Disturb. You can manage your settings to allow repeated calls from certain contacts, so if there's an emergency, they'll still be able to reach you.
THINGS YOU SHOULD PLAN IN ADVANCE
Depending on how long you plan to be away, if you have a pet, etc., here are some things you should definitely have figured out at least a couple of weeks in advance.
If you're not bringing your pet(s) with you, make sure you sort out in advance where they'll be staying. If you need to board them or have a pet sitter come 'round to check on the cat, get in touch with your regular kennel or pet sitter as early as you can, because the holidays are a busy time for kennels and pet sitters alike. On the other hand, if you do plan to travel with your pet*, make sure you have everything you need for them sorted out ahead of time. If you're bringing them on a flight or over the boarder, figure out what documentation, identification, and baggage you may need. Make sure they're up-to-date on all of their shots (especially rabies, by law) and that you have legitimate proof that this is the case. Also, make sure their preventative treatments (flea, tick, etc.) are up-to-date (get in touch with your vet to see exactly what you need, based on where you're travelling to).
Again, if you're travelling with your pet, research ahead of time if their food is available in stores in your destination city or if you need to pack extra for your stay.
If you're going away for an extended period of time, sort out who (if anyone) will be watching your house and leave them any detailed instructions they may need. This is especially important to those who are leaving a house in a colder climate: you definitely want someone regularly checking in on your house to make sure that the pipes haven't frozen and burst, that the furnace is still working, and that there's no external damage from possible winter storms. Also, if you have any, make sure you have them water your plants and check your mail.
*I plan to do a full blog post on travelling with a pet at some point, so I'll go more into detail about what you may want/need to bring, and more!
That's all I can think of for now! If you're travelling somewhere for the holidays, hopefully this information will be helpful. Some of the most important things to keep in mind during the holidays are:
○ Everyone working in the airport is just doing their job, and they're doing their absolute best to try and get you home for to your family
○ Mother Nature doesn't give a f*ck about your holiday plans
○ It's better to arrive late and safe than not at all. Drive slower if you have to, and try to understand delayed or cancelled flights are (usually) in the best interest of everyone's safety and well-being.
○ Try to remind yourself that everything happens for a reason. If you're running late, if you miss your exit, if your flight is delayed or cancelled, the universe wanted it to happen. You may have just narrowly missed a pileup on the highway, or weather that would've forced your plane to turn around and go back.
The holidays are stressful no matter how you get home, so just try to stay calm and remember it's all worth getting to spend that special time with your loved ones.