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‘Tis the season to be… stressed? While holiday travel might be associated with a whole lot of nail-biting and clenched teeth, it doesn’t have to be. It is true that the six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s will see loads of people in transit—nearly two-thirds of Americans, according to the Holiday Travel Insider Index—but there are ways to make life a little easier this year. That’s why we’ve gathered our favorite travel hacks to help you save time, money and your sanity this season. It’s our gift to you!


1. Good Things Come in Package Deals
Give yourself the gift of savings this year, and package up your airfare and hotel reservations. Add a car rental to the mix, and travelers can save an average of $500 on Orbitz. The more you bundle, the bigger the savings. Who said good things come in small packages?

2. Seize the (Mon)days
If you’re booking airfare, the best prices are typically found departing on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday and returning Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. Monday to Monday trips are usually a good bet. Also, for shorter trips, try to fly out during the week instead of over a weekend.

3. Flex your scheduling muscles
Being flexible can pay off. If your holiday schedule allows, book flights on less popular travel days such as Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, or New Year’s Day. If you don’t mind scheduling a trip on a popular holidays, they often have the cheapest fares.

4. Celebrate Christmas in July…in December
Consider celebrating the holidays in a tropical location. Prices during the off-season/shoulder season are much more reasonable and you get to really see and enjoy your destination without the crowds. Check for the best current travel deals.


Packing hacks

5. Behold the mighty scarf
Whether you use it as a blanket, wear it as a fashion accessory, or roll it up like a pillow, a cozy scarf is a versatile travel item for holiday travel. Besides keeping you warm on chilly airplanes, it can also dress up just about any outfit—taking you from day to night in a pinch.

6. Don’t be iron-ic
Technically, this is an unpacking hack. Instead of plugging in the iron and setting up the ironing board, just hang wrinkled clothing in the bathroom while you take a hot shower. Your clothes will turn out wrinkle-free from the steam.

7. Pack a snack
Airplanes are one of the few places on earth where they can charge double for food that’s half as tasty. Pack your own snacks in container and then wrap it in a tea towel. The towel gives the pack an extra layer of protection—plus, doubles as a napkin!

8. Weigh your options
Save yourself time and money at the check-in counter by weighing your checked bag ahead of time. You don’t even need a luggage scale. Just step on a bathroom scale with and without your suitcase and subtract the difference. Tip: If it’s over the limit, try wearing a few extra items instead.


Air travel hacks

9. Put a bow on it
Flying to visit family? Instead of wasting precious space in your suitcase, send presents ahead of time by purchasing online and shipping to your family member’s home. That way they’ll be waiting when you get there, and you’ll have instant gift-wrap, thanks to the U.S. Postal Service. All you need is a carryon-friendly bow to top it all off.

10. Water, water, everywhere (except through TSA)
You know the TSA rules—no liquids under 3.4 ounces unless medically necessary (like medicine or contact solution). So you won’t get a bottle of water past the security line, but you can always pack an empty one and refill it at a drinking fountain for free. We don’t know about you, but we’d practically die of thirst before paying $6 for a tiny bottle of water at the kiosk. It’s the principle of the matter.

11. Make yourself comfortable
Save your cute lace-up, buckled shoes for the holiday party and slip on comfortable flats for the airport. No one wants to be the one holding up the security line prying off their shoes, so go slip-on and avoid having to endure the eye roll from the lady waiting behind you.

12. You’ve got the power
Wi-fi is becoming more common on airplanes, but what’s the point if your battery conks out mid-flight? Use a universal portable power pack to extend the life of your phone, laptop or tablet. Also, outlets can be scarce at airports, so save yourself the trouble and bring a splitter so you can charge multiple devices at once.

Road trip hacks

13. Safety first
The American Automobile Association predicts that over 43 million Americans will travel to celebrate Thanksgiving. That’s a lot of people! If you get stuck, be sure to pack a safety kit, with road trip essentials like an ice scraper, tow rope, blankets, flashlights, a bag of sand or rock salt, and a first aid it. It also helps to have spare change for tolls.

14. You cruise, you lose
Here’s a handy tip if you’ll be driving this season. If you’re behind the wheel in inclement weather, avoid using cruise control. This setting can make it easy to space out and delay your reaction time. Those precious seconds could make all the difference.

15. Ice, ice baby
De-icing your car is the worst. Who wants to get stuck outside, scraping off the car while youfingers feel like they’re about to fall off? While your car warms up, just spritz your windshield with de-icing fluid. Bottles are inexpensive, and you can pick them up at any local hardware store.

16. Say no to salty
Avoid giving kids salty snacks in the car. Follow our logic here: salt makes kids thirsty. Thirsty kids drink more water. More water means more bathroom breaks. The less time you spend at rest stops, the more time you can spend on the road. So opt for fresh fruit, cereal, or raisins instead.

17. Change your tune
There are only so many times a person can hear Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer before they go a little crazy. Make a holiday playlist for your holiday road trip, and include songs that aren’t festive as well. That way, when you’re sick of everything on the radio, you’ll have a backup option ready to go.

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Hope Nardini
Hope is a freelance travel writer, salsa dancer, and shameless chocoholic. Although she's lived all over the U.S. and South America, she now calls the wonderful city of Chicago home. Find her on Twitter: @HKNARDINI