It's the most dreaded aspect of the Most Wonderful Time of the Year: travel. Highway tie-ups, flight delays, cancellations and other mishaps can make getting home for the holidays a horrible hoopla even when the weather’s decent.
Throw a snow or ice storm into the mix (always a looming possibility here in the Midwest) and boy, can that holiday travel become an ordeal.
The best travel advice ever given was, “Be flexible.”
Be prepared, but allow yourself room to
roll with the punches if things go awry.
Sometimes a snow or ice event doesn’t even have to happen in your immediate area to mess up your carefully-scheduled plans. A ground stop at a major airline hub like Chicago, New York, D.C., or Atlanta can cause a cascade of cancellations that ripple across the entire nation and strand thousands.
And then there’s all the prep work: buying tickets, packing, dropping the pets off at the kennel, making hotel reservations . . .
How can seniors living in Cincinnati avoid holiday travel hassles? Are there any strategies for streamlining the process, or minimizing the risk of mishaps?
There sure are. Follow these three tips for a safe, low-stress and healthy holiday travel season!
1. Fly or drive on non-peak days
The day before and the Sunday after Thanksgiving are two of the busiest days in the aviation year. On the ground, highways are typically crowded. So why are you trying to be a part of the crowd?
Luckily for retired seniors, who aren’t beholden to weekly work schedules, the opportunity is usually there to travel at off times. Try leaving on the Monday or Tuesday before Thanksgiving and coming back Thanksgiving night, or on Saturday, after all the Black Friday shoppers have had their fill of commerce!
2. Do your departure tasks ahead of time
Trouble finding a parking spot? Long delays at the ticket counters? Frantic runs between terminals to catch connectors? You can avoid all of these headaches.
First, never schedule a connecting flight with a short turnaround time. If your first flight leg is scheduled to arrive at 2:30 p.m., and the first available connector leaves at 3:15 p.m., take the 6 p.m. flight instead. That way, if there’s a delay, you have cushion time. And if there’s not, you can take some leisurely time in the airport — most larger airports have wonderful amenities, including fine dining, massages or even small movie theaters!
Second, many airport parking services allow you to reserve a parking spot ahead of time. That’s especially true of third-party parking providers that shuttle you back and forth from your car to the terminal.
Third, print your tickets ahead of time. Airlines, AMTRAK and even some bus services allow you to print your boarding pass at home and use a self-serve check-in kiosk at the terminal.
3. Minimize the carry-ons, and be smart about what you pack in them
If you can avoid it, never carry on more than one piece of luggage. And in that piece, carry only the most essential items you would need if you were to be stranded for a few days:
- At least a five-day supply of all your necessary daily medications
- At least one complete change of clothes, and two reserve sets of undergarments
- Cell phone and wall charger
- Money, passport, tickets and other essentials
- A small box of laundry detergent
- Change for laundromat machines
- Emergency snacks (granola bars, raisins, etc.)
- Basic toiletries (soap, shampoo, shaving needs, deodorant, shower cap, etc.)
This is especially important in the winter — when weather delays are both more likely to occur, and more likely to be protracted — and for any senior whose health is dependent upon daily medications.
This holiday season, plan ahead and your travel should go smoothly.
If you’re a senior living in Cincinnati and looking to travel to see relatives or friends in other cities this winter, use the tips above to guide you as you prepare for your journey.
Just remember that, should delays or misadventures happen, the best travel advice ever given was, “Be flexible.” Be prepared, but allow yourself room to roll with the punches if things go awry. Happy holidays!