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TravelHaven Tips – Holiday Travel

Although many people are still cutting back due to the ongoing economic doldrums, don’t think that means fewer travel hassles this holiday season. Airlines may have fewer passengers, but there are also fewer scheduled flights, so most planes will be approaching 100 percent capacity. Passenger trains will also be packed. Amtrak has been recording record ridership the past couple of years. And if you’re thinking about driving to your holiday destination, you’ll have plenty of company on the highways, too. No, the economy won’t keep everyone home for the holidays.

So how can you keep travel woes from crushing your holiday spirit? Harriet Baskas, a travel writer for msnbc.com’s popular weekly column, The Well-Mannered Traveler, and the author of the “Stuck at the Airport” blog , posted tips for holiday travel last year. Let’s review a few of her suggestions.

Get plenty of sleep
It’s tempting to stay up late packing and clearing off your desk before a trip. But sleep-deprived travelers are cranky travelers and likely to find everything about travel extra irritating. So get a good night’s sleep.

Prepare Ahead
Do everything you can before you leave home. Reconfirm reservations the night before your trip and check your flight information before you leave the house (especially if weather is bad on either end). Print out your travel information. If driving, make sure you have current maps.

Arrive early
Whether traveling by train, plane, bus or car, get an early start. Airlines advise being at the airport at least two hours before domestic flights and three hours before international flights. But at holiday time, it’s wise to build in extra time to allow for crowds at airports or train stations, not to mention extra busy highways. Keep this in mind for your return trip as well.

Dress for TSA
At airport security checkpoints, you’ll still need to remove your shoes, coat, big belt buckle and other metal objects. Computers, however, can now stay in their (TSA-approved) cases.

Know what won’t pass inspection
Travelers give up tons of prohibited items at airport security checkpoints. So take a moment to read through the TSA’s current list of what is permitted and prohibited for carry-on.

Pack smart
Security officers may require you to unwrap gifts in your carry-on bag, so it’s best to carry presents and wrapping paper separately. X-ray machines can’t always see through piles of books, CD’s and other dense items, so spread them out in your bag.

Have a survival kit
It should include snacks, a charged cell phone and a backup calling card, a small flashlight, sanitizing wipes, entertainment (books, DVD or music player, cards, etc.) and some extra cash. Earplugs and an eyeshade are a good idea, too.

Be ready for problems
Load your cell phone and/or laptop with phone numbers for your airline, hotel, car rental agency, and your trip information, if possible. Make sure you also have it all on paper in case your electronics are lost or out of service. And make sure someone at home has a copy of all that information.

Know how to complain
If things go wrong, it isn’t smart to yell at the people who are working the holiday and just trying to do their jobs to help you with your problem. If you can’t calmly resolve a problem on site, take good notes, get names, and follow up immediately with a phone call and/or letter when you get to your destination.

Know that your kids know how to travel
Whining, crying, unhappy kids in an airport, on a train, or in the back of the car are no fun – for anyone. Make sure yours are prepared for the adventure. Bring along small, quiet toys, books, snacks and activities. And tell them what the travel day will be like and how to behave in public.

Happy holiday travel!