The Savvy Girl’s Guide to Traveling over the Holidays


Am I the only one who absolutely loves being at the airport? I love the idea that you’re completely unknown surrounded by tons of strangers. You can make up their extravagant life story slash travel adventures, all while everyone around thinks you’re simply listening to Christmas music in your earbuds.

I must admit, though, when I think about the airport during the holiday season, one word comes to mind… stress. I chatted with Leigh from Jetsetter to get the inside tips on how to have your airport experience run as smoothly as possible. This way my family doesn’t think I am a total Grinch upon arrival in St. Louis!

Should you check or carry on your luggage?

If you’re able to pack light, I definitely recommend carrying on. Delays due to weather, tight connections and an increased number of flyers over the holidays mean checked bags are more likely to get lost. At the very least, be sure to pack a few essentials — pajamas, a change of clothes, a bathing suit if you’re headed somewhere warm — in your carryon just in case your checked bags do go missing.

What is the best way to get gifts home? Ship, pack in your luggage, or order online and ship direct to their house?

If you’re shipping domestically, much of which is free, I’m all for ordering online and sending packages directly to your destination (I usually ship gifts directly to my parents’ house and just make them promise not to peek). If you do pack gifts don’t wrap them as it’s within airport security’s right to ask for gifts to be opened.

How early should you arrive for your flight?

I like to play it safe around the holidays: 2 hours early for domestic flights and 3 for international. It may leave you with extra time at the airport, but better than having to run!

Are there ways to combat the busy airports?

Airports are going to be busy during the holidays, there’s no way around it, and one way I like to embrace the crowds is by looking at the departure cities listed on each of the gates. It’s exciting to think about all of these people, flying all over the world, to celebrate the holidays with loved ones. You can reduce your check-in time by carrying on, and printing or downloading your boarding pass ahead of time. And getting there early allows for a much less-stressful experience.

Should you take an airline voucher if the flight is overbooked and they are offering them?

Overbooked offers during the holidays are generally pretty good because of the volume of passengers they need to work around. I like to hold out for an amount that at least equals a free plane ticket, and if your travel plans allow for flexibility I say go for it.

How do you keep your cool and enjoy the ride despite unexpected delays or overwhelming crowds?

Dress comfortably and, if you are delayed, treat yourself to a meal at a restaurant. You’ll feel much better sitting down to a real meal as opposed to grabbing a sandwich from a kiosk. If crowds get to you I also recommend noise canceling headphones and be sure to bring a good book or download a TV show or a few movies you’ve been wanting to see onto your portable device or computer.

Thanks for the tips, Leigh!

Bottom line :: I never go to an airport without a few things… a pair of headphones, my kindle, and my own goodies so I don’t have to binge on peanuts and pretzels on the plane! Happy Holidays!

photo via this is glamorous, the neotraditionalist 

  1. rachel


    oops, i was the person who forgot her passport last year, major walk of shame! I did beg in a stylish way though!! um does crying count as stylish????!!

    • Jen Pinkston


      I once accidentally sent my husband to the airport on a work trip to Ireland with MY passport! I had to race down to LAX and switch it out. He boarded just in time!

  2. As a road warrior I agree.

    A small point regarding “DRESS COMFORTABLY”: This does not mean in sweatpants and a hoodie, but in jersey ponte pants, a comfortable top, and a light sweater or wrap.

    I hate checking anything in, and suggest putting liquids into a separate pocket or in your purse until you are past security and can pack it into your suitcase. Do not be THAT PERSON holding up the security line because you don’t know you have to take off your watch, jewellery, display liquids and lay out your laptop.

    I WILL scream. Inside my head.

  3. rachel


    I love airports too! My tip is get there early, do all your Christmas shopping in Duty Free, have smoked salmon and champagne in the bar (non-alcoholic options also available) and/or a head massage/manicure.

    • Jen Pinkston


      A massage is my favorite way to pass time in an airport! That and a yummy meal. Depending on the airport, you can get really great food these days in the terminals!

  4. great tips! i ALWAYS carry-on, unless i am flying internationally…it is always so stressful waiting at the baggage claim just hoping your bag isn’t laying on the runway somewhere 🙂

    Molly {Dreams in HD}

    • Jen Pinkston


      me too! I can’t remember the last time I checked a bag. Although I have a feeling that will all be changing when we have a little one in tow 😉

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