Let me begin by asking, how is it already the middle of December? Before you even have time to contemplate where the rest of 2008 has gone, it’s already time for holiday travel. Millions of people will be taking to the road, rails, or sky in the next few weeks, so here are some tips for making your holiday travel a bit easier.
On the Bus:
Many discount bus operators have emerged in the past year, giving penny-pincher passengers one-way tickets for as little as $1. They key to getting these cheap fares is, of course, to buy early. If you haven’t done so already, buy them now!
Like any wheeled vehicle, buses are still subject to traffic conditions, just like any other car. Bring a book, charge your iPod, try to travel outside of rush hour, and don’t cut your time too close. If you have to be at Aunt Millie’s place for dinner at 3 p.m., it’s best not to take the bus that is scheduled to arrive at 2:30 p.m. Try to be flexible.
Those traveling by bus after the holidays should check out MegaBus–the discount bus company is giving away 100,000 free bus tickets for travel between January 14 and March 18. Seeing as their tickets generally start at $1, and now they’re giving away 100,000 free tickets, I’m not really quite sure how the company stays in business. But hey, I’ll take it.
Those who don’t like the confinement of a bus or the lines at the airport can opt to travel the old-fashioned way. Sure, it might take some four hours to get from D.C. to New York on Amtrak (compared to the 45 minutes on a plane), but–and especially if you are lucky enough to sit in a “quiet car”–think of all the reading and/or sleep you can catch up on, and of all the leg cramping that you can avoid.
At the Airport:
Don’t try to pack food on the plane. It’s messy, and the whole point of traveling elsewhere for the holidays is to have someone else do all the cooking, right? TSA advises against
trying to carry-on the following items: cranberry sauce, maple syrup, and gravy (among other foods). And while you can’t bring those foods on the plane, you can bring cakes and pies; however, desserts are subject to additional screening (because pumpkin pie can be lethal…).
On November 20, TSA implemented “Green” lanes to all of its security checkpoints nationwide. The Green lanes are part of the “Diamond Self-Select” program that TSA created earlier this year, and were tested in some 48 airports. The Green lanes are designated for families, those needing extra assistance, and passengers who aren’t familiar with security rules. Call it a segregation of the passengers who can take their time from those who are impatient, but either way, the Green lanes have been popular in airports so far, and should hopefully ease the security checkpoint process.
You can also reduce your time at the airport by checking into your flight online. Many airlines (like American Airlines or Southwest) will allow passengers to check in online and print out their boarding pass 24 hours before their scheduled flight. Currently, Delta Airlines, American Airlines, and Continental are even testing a system that allows passengers scan their phone screen as a boarding pass.
Delta passengers departing from LaGuardia can sign up online to receive a text message with their boarding pass bar code. Before they board the plane, all they have to do is hold up their phone to the bar code scanner, and they’re on their way. All passengers should also check out TSA’s Wait Time Calculator.
Just enter your airport, day, and flight time and it will tell you the approximate time you will have to stand in line at the security checkpoint.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
As always, with any travel, be prepared! Do your research! Don’t show up to any airport or rail station without proper I.D., your boarding pass, and plenty of holiday patience. And be nice to transportation employees. I’m quite sure that plane and train delays are not their fault, so don’t take it out on them.
Got a holiday travel question? Just ask IT!
Photo: Mark Graham via the Intelligent Travel Flickr pool