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A Few for the Road (and Air): Holiday Travel Tips

Worried about upcoming holiday travel plans? We have some tips to help ease your mind.

Air travel can be dicey when the weather outside is frightful, so heed these tips from Fare Compare CEO Rick Seaney if you think you might be affected by bad weather:

* Before heading to the airport, check your flight status on the airline's or airport's Web site. For flights in or out of Dulles or DCA, look for schedule updates here.

* Also, make sure you have your airline's phone number on hand - programmed in your cell phone, or written down somewhere handy with a stash of change for pay phones - so you can call the airline the minute your pkans change.

* If you're already at the airport, you'll usually have better luck making alternative arrangements through the gate agent rather than the ticket agent, so head to the gate pronto.

* Anytime you're stuck waiting in line, maximize your chances of reaching someone by getting on the phone with the airline, too.

* If bad weather is going to cause you to get to the airport late and miss your flight, call the airline immediately to get put on the stand-by list. Ditto if you know you're going to miss your connecting flight.

Gadling's Tim Johansmeyer
posted a cranky plea to all air travelers with tips on how to make holiday travel more pleasant for everyone else. His tips on speeding up the security line are helpful.

Tripso's Jason Barger offers a 12-step plan for reducing holiday travel stress, like this tip: "Help someone on your airplane load their carry-on into the overhead storage bin."

Happy travels, everyone!

By Christina Talcott |  December 23, 2008; 7:07 AM ET  | Category:  Airports , Family Travel , Mid-Atlantic Destinations , Online Resources , Travel Logistics , holiday travel
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Another sanity-saving tip:

If you are stuck in a decent sized airport (like O'Hare), buy a day pass (or perhaps a trial pass) to the VIP club (preferably of your airline).

Aside from the generally free wifi, free drinks and snacks, comfy chairs, clean bathrooms, and generally more peaceful environment, and snacks, there are usually ticket agents inside the club. If you are lucky enough for your airline to sponsor the club, you will have short lines to deal with helpful agents.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | December 23, 2008 8:43 AM

I second the tip about having your airline's phone number handy. I once showed up at Orlando's airport to a typically long line to find out from the curbside check-in that my flight had been cancelled. While I stood in line I called US Air and worked out my new flight. Then I stood in line for my new boarding pass much calmer than those around me.

Posted by: NatsPhan123 | December 23, 2008 9:31 AM

To check flight status information for BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, please use the Airport's website--

Thank you.

Jonathan Dean
BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport

Posted by: JonathanDean | December 23, 2008 10:37 AM

If you're flying, be prepared for the worst by having a copy of your airline's contract of carriage with you and by having a printout of all available flights to and from your destination (and to and from any connecting airports). You probably won't need it, but it will give you peace of mind.

Also, get to the airport early enough that you can be sure to board as soon as your group is called - bin space is always tight during the holidays with coats and presents, and this year will be wretched.

Finally, if you're driving, be sure to keep warm blankets, a few snacks, and emergency supplies in the trunk in case of weather-related road closures, and make sure to check tires/fluids before you go.

Posted by: acdub | December 23, 2008 2:02 PM

Irony - one of our flights tomorrow morning (through Chicago) has already been canceled. The airline's suggested alternative was a flight that would get us into our destination airport 30 hours later - i.e., the evening of Christmas Day.

New lessons learned? First, make sure you're signed up for all of the airline's possible notification options so that when your flight is canceled, you are promptly contacted and can have first dibs on the options. Second, you don't have to take what you're given - we called and pushed them (very, very nicely) to explore all possible alternative airports and options. So now we're spending a few hundred more on a one-way car rental, and our 1 1/2 hour drive from the airport tomorrow is now a 5 hour drive from a different airport - a small price to pay for spending Christmas eve. and morning with the extended family.

Posted by: acdub | December 23, 2008 11:22 PM

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