YOU Magazine - December 2010 - Last Minute Holiday Travel Tips...For Planes, Trains and AutomobilesBy Marianne Schwab
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Last Minute Holiday Travel Tips...
For Planes, Trains and Automobiles
By Marianne Schwab

Last Minute Holiday Travel Tips...For Planes, Trains and AutomobilesBy Marianne Schwab

Do you remember the old Steve Martin movie about doing whatever it takes to get home for Thanksgiving? Well, whether you're taking planes, trains or automobiles to get home for the holidays, traveling can be very expensive and stressful...especially if you've waited until the last minute to make your plans. If you haven't booked your flight home for the holidays yet, shame on you because you've missed out on the best airfares. But before you think the Grinch has already stolen your Christmas travel deal, here are a few tips to put some holly jolly back into your wallet.

Avoid Peak Travel Dates for Best Airfares
You'll get the best airfares now if you fly on days that most people don't want to fly during the holidays, for example on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day or New Year's Eve or New Year's Day. Also, if you can adjust your schedule to avoid the most traveled itineraries – like Thursday to Sunday for both Christmas and New Year's this year – you'll score the best airfares still available.

According to Bing Travel, the average round-trip domestic fare for the Christmas holiday is $403, but if you fly on Christmas Day you can save an average of $67 per ticket. By avoiding air travel on the busiest travel days of the holiday season, you will also save by not paying some of those new holiday surcharges major airlines are adding to fares. Flights on Christmas Day are completely exempt from this extra charge. Otherwise, flying anytime between December 17 and January 3 will probably cost you an extra $10 to $30 each way.

Ship Christmas Gifts Instead of Packing Them and Save Checked Baggage Fees
The good old days when you used to be able to board an airplane with beautifully wrapped Christmas packages to have for your family that was meeting you at the other end of your journey are long gone. You can still go to the airport with wrapped gifts, but the TSA elves will happily unwrap them for you.

You can't even place wrapped presents in your checked luggage, but is that really a good idea since you'll be paying extra for your suitcase full of presents? You may want to check out the charges for airline luggage fees at since the cost of checking one bag is about $45 each way and three bags can cost up to $175. The best solution to avoiding these charges is to ship your presents before you go. But don't wait until the last minute to ship the gifts or you'll have to pay rush shipping for your packages which defeats the purpose. The beauty of shipping gifts ahead of time already wrapped is that it'll save you time and money since you won't have to spend time wrapping gifts when you arrive home for the holidays.

If you do end up taking your gifts with you on the plane, remember to leave them unwrapped or airport security may unwrap them for you. Even in checked baggage, there is a strong chance they will be unwrapped for inspection by security personnel. You can pack gift bags and white tissue paper instead of gift wrap this holiday season so you can quickly and easily wrap them at your destination.

TSA and the Bah Humbug Department
You may not want to hear this but you should get to the airport three hours before your flight during the holidays because you need to be prepared for more than the usual slowdowns at security. Even though the TSA's liquid and gel rules have been around for years now, folks who rarely fly may not be familiar with all the ins and outs of airline security procedures. There is also an ever growing protest against the new body scanners infiltrating U.S. airports and many frequent travelers and passengers are opting for pat downs instead of subjecting themselves to unknown doses of radiation that the body scanners put out. These pat downs will make the TSA lines even slower.

For the record, you may bring liquids and gels in three-ounce or smaller containers, packed within a single, quart-size, zip-top, clear plastic bag. If you want to bring more than the three-ounce amounts, you'll have to pack those items in your checked luggage. You're also allowed to bring any liquids onto the plane with you (such as coffee or water) purchased after you go through a security checkpoint.

Take a Road Trip Home for the Holidays
Now, if you've really missed out on the best airfares or can't fly on the days that have the best prices, then don't rule out driving home for holidays. If you have a family, this can save a bundle especially if you live no more than an eight to ten hour drive away from mom and dad or grandma and grandpa. It may make more sense too, as you'll have to leave for the airport four hours before your flight to plan for the holiday rush, so what's a few extra hours in the car if you can save a thousand dollars in airfare?

Don't Let the Bed Bugs Bite Your Holiday Travel Plans
No matter where you're staying this holiday season, bed bugs are a clear and present danger and have been found on airplanes, in clothing stores and hotels spreading to all 50 states. The bed bug pandemic has quickly become a front-page story across the country. They're in the United States at levels not seen since World War II, according to the Terminix pest control firm.

As public concern mounts, there's a solution to safely kill and prevent bed bugs with a brand new product called Stop Bugging Me! Its nontoxic spray formula has a botanical scent and is safe for people and pets, yet deadly on contact for bed bugs. It is designed for use on mattresses, bedding, sofas, stuffed chairs, carpets and rugs. Unlike toxic bed bug products, the product can be sprayed directly on beds and linens, where other toxin-based products can't be used.

Bedbugs are nothing to laugh about. The top 15 bedbug cities are New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, Cincinnati, Chicago, Denver, Columbus, Dayton, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Boston, Indianapolis, Louisville, Cleveland and Minneapolis.

If you want to find out if the hotel you've booked has been reported for bedbugs, you can check out This is a free database that contains more than 20,000 reports from travelers who report where in the U.S. and Canada they've encountered bedbugs. Also read recent hotel reviews at as a secondary source.

Don't Get Sick
There are a couple of things you should pack to do everything you can to stay healthy during the holidays. First understand that you get sick because germs and viruses are transmitted when you touch a surface with a virus and then touch your face. The number one defense against getting sick is to wash your hands. Soap and water is best, but when you travel make sure you carry a travel size antibacterial hand sanitizer with you.

Also, pack a travel size of Clorox wipes so you can wipe down all the surfaces you'll be touching while on a plane and in a hotel. This includes the tray table, arm rests, head rests, light/flight attendant call buttons, doorknobs, light switch plates, phones and remote controls. And carry a little arsenal of OTC products like Oscillococcinum for flu prevention and Zicam or Vitamin C (in easy to pack Emergen-C packs) for colds. It's so simple to take measures to prevent illness, yet so many people don't do it and end up sick during the holidays.

Christmas and New Year's Getaways
Finally, if watching the chestnuts roasting on an open fire really isn't your thing and you'd like to head to warmer weather, then you might be able to find a last minute deal on a cruise, vacation package, or bundled trip to the Caribbean or Hawaii. Deals may be scarce but they're worth a shot. Because travel agencies lock in lower rates early, some last-minute packages might cost less than the airfares as is the case with some deals with Pleasant Holidays. They pre-purchase a lot of airline seats to Hawaii and often run last minute travel deals so they're not stuck with a bunch of airline tickets.

So whether you're headed home or headed to Hawaii, make sure you don't forget to pack an extra bundle of holiday spirit. That's one carry-on item where airlines can't charge a fee.

For over twenty years, Marianne Schwab has been collecting money-saving travel tips as a travel producer for several high profile television programs. In addition to traveling around the world, she has flown all over the country to produce and direct videos and live television productions. She loves sharing her insider travel secrets on how to get the best travel deals, and helps her readers discover a world of ways to see the world on almost any budget at In addition to her travel advice web site, Marianne is Executive Producer at CMP Media Cafe in Los Angeles where she specializes in getting her clients media exposure on television and radio news programs. You can follow Marianne on Twitter: @TravelProducer

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