Smooth Travel for the Holidays

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Don't wrap the gifts, bring a sandwich, and reserve a parking spot ahead! Watch the video for more great tips.

If you're flying this holiday season, a few key strategies can make the experience more bearable. Click here to watch the latest episode of our weekly Web show, "Where Next? with Erik Torkells," to learn what you're allowed to take on board, how to reserve a spot in the airport parking lot, and more. Tune in online each week, as Budget Travel and bring you great advice on traveling and destinations.

Top Holiday Travel Tips

1. When carrying on liquids, it's 3-1-1. Here's how to remember the airport security rule for liquids: 3-1-1. That's three-ounce containers in one one-quart Ziploc bag. If you plan on carrying on liquids, you need to do this. They say you should pull out the ziploc bag as you approach security, but I don't. Just have the bag in your carry-on. I bet you'll be fine. Also, you may want to bring a few extra quart-size Ziploc bags. Your travel companions may not have remembered one, or you can give them out to other people in line. (Though some airports are giving them out, which is pretty cool.)

2. Leave any gifts unwrapped. If taking presents on a plane, whether you're checking them or carrying them on, don't wrap them. The TSA reserves the right to open them. Wrap 'em when you get to your destination.

3. Reserve a parking space in advance. Private airport parking lots will shuttle you to and from the terminal, and they let you book in advance so you won't have to worry about finding a space. (Good resources:,,, or People who live far from an airport and have an early flight might want to stay at an airport hotel the night before; some allow you to park your car at the hotel until you return--the price of a night's stay may be less than the parking bill at the airport. (Find info at

4. Check in the day before your flight. Online check-in is a godsend. You don't have to wait in the long line at the airport, especially if you're not checking bags, to get your boarding passes. Even if you're checking bags, I'd still do it. It'll only help.

5. Bring your own in-flight amenities. Airlines are charging for everything they possibly can: food, blankets, movies, curbside check-in, you name it. (There's even a rumor of an Asian airline charging for blankets, and when they need to increase revenues, they turn up the air conditioning! Another airline, in Europe, charges you if you want customer service by phone!) Some airlines still give various amenities, but it's too hard to keep track of who gives what. Bring your own entertainment, your own headphones, your own meal, your own pillow. Honestly, you'll be happier with your sandwich than any sandwich the airline makes.

6. Pack no more than 50 pounds per bag. All airlines recently changed their baggage limits, so you can only pack limit now 50 pounds per bag. And they'll charge you if you go over. If you're worried, pack a small duffle in your big bag, and take it out and fill it at the counter.

7. Join every rewards program you can. If you're staying at a hotel, by all means join the chain's rewards program--even if you think you'll never stay at one of those hotels again. That's because companies want to build loyalty, and they'll treat you better if they think you'll be loyal. I recently stayed one night at a Wyndham, and I joined the program beforehand. I filled out a form about what kind of snack and drinks I like, among other stuff. And when I got to my room, there were peanut M&M's (my favorite) and red wine (my other favorite) and bottled water waiting for me--all free. Another chain, Omni, delivers a free beverage to your room every morning if you're a member.

8. Don't forget car rental premium clubs. At busy times--i.e., holidays--the lines to check in for a rental car can be brutal. Often, just by joining the loyalty program, you get to skip the line--even better, you get to skip that painful interaction when they upsell you on insurance and a better model. Most car-rental companies don't charge you to join.

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