Tips for Stress-Free Holiday Travel

Busy airports and endless security lines are inevitable this time of year, but don’t let your patience run thin. Stay sane with these pointers

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Know when to book

Flights on Tuesdays and Wednesdays are no longer the cheapest, according to a recent Texas A&M study. When are the least expensive days to book?  Believe it or not, Saturday and Sunday, when rates are about 5 percent cheaper. Another study by CheapAir.com found that those who booked tickets for domestic travel 49 days before their scheduled departure saved the most money.

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Know when not to travel

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, for example, is the busiest travel day of the year. A better idea: Book your flight for early on the holiday morning to avoid long lines and agitated travelers. If your travel dates aren’t flexible, opt for the first flight of the day. Statistics show that earlier flights are more likely to take off on time.

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Stock up on travel apps

They’ll make your life more organized and you less stressed. Here are some free ones to try:
 

GateGuru Enter your itinerary into the app and it will tell you your flight status, how long you can expect to wait on the security line and even give you a list of the best airport restaurants and amenities (along with a handy map for finding them) based on customer reviews.
 

TripIt This app scans your inbox and culls email confirmations from flight, rental car and hotel purchases, then creates a master itinerary you can sync with your calendar. If you don’t want to give the app access to your email, you can forward your confirmations to plans@tripit.com.
 

Seat Guru Curious whether your flight has free Wi-Fi or if your seat is next to the bathroom? SeatGuru will tell you that and more, including how wide your seat is, where the exit rows are located, which seats don’t recline all the way and whether your plane offers individual televisions.
 

Google Translate Spending hours in an overseas airport? Google translate instantly translates phrases from over 60 languages when you type, speak or photograph the foreign words.
 

Kayak Flight cancelled? Ditch the customer service line. With Kayak’s app you can set up price alerts for new flights, book hotels and reserve rental cars on the go.

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Consider an alternative airport

When Travel + Leisure recently ranked America’s worst airports (based on flight delays, design, food and drink, shopping, check-in and location), Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock was the nation’s most inferior. New York’s LaGuardia Airport, Montana’s Billings Logan International airport, Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey and Birmingham–Shuttlesworth International Airport in Alabama didn’t fare much better. Booking a flight leaving from an alternative airport may increase your ground commute (the closest major airport to Billings, for example, is a two-hour and fifteen minute drive). But it also may save you from a miserable travel experience. 

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Steer clear of these airlines

The worst carriers, according to the 2012 Airline Quality Rating report? United Airlines (most customer complaints), Express Jet (fewest on-time arrivals) and SkyWest (most denied boardings due to overbooked flights). If you haven’t booked yet, consider Virgin America, Jet Blue and AirTran, which got the snagged the top spots for good performance.

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Take advantage of free amenities

Sometimes it’s the little perks that make all the difference. Delta, for example, offers free alcoholic drinks on flights that are longer than six hours; Jet Blue provides 34 inches of leg room, compared with the usual 31 inches on most other major carriers; and Southwest now offers seven live channels on a handful of its planes.

Next: The Hunt for Female-Friendly Hotels

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