If you’re traveling during the holiday season you need to know about my top secret holiday travel tips and hacks!
Did you read about my great ideas for Christmas traditions? If you did, then you know my family members are spread out all over so typically I travel during ALL of the holidays. Lucky for you, all those trips taught me some holiday travel tips and hacks that I’m sharing to help make your holiday travel easier.
The post “Top Secret Holiday Travel Tips and Hacks” may contain affiliate links. That means if you click and buy, I may receive a small commission (at no cost to you). All opinions are my own and no products were received in exchange for my opinions. Click here to see details of my full disclosure policy.
Andrea, I'm just here for a quick travel tip, so let's skip right to it!
TRUE CONFESSION: When I first started traveling during the holidays it was to spend time with my son in the military. I researched ALL the fun things to do at our destination, but I didn’t research ANY tips for traveling during the holiday season. I literally learned most of these tips the hard way, but luckily you don’t have to! Woo-hoo!
Tips on Deciding Where to Travel for the Holidays
Do you need help figuring out a destination for your holiday travel plans? Check out the best places to visit in the winter in the USA. You will find warm places like Hawaii to escape the winter months, cold places like New York City to embrace the winter season, and off-season destinations like Georgia with all the fun and fewer crowds.
Are you traveling in December for the Christmas holidays to see amazing lights and Christmas markets? We got to see one of the most famous churches in the world, La Sagrada Familia, in Spain on Christmas Day. Bucket List… Check!
Are you traveling for the New Year to see fireworks and different New Year’s Eve traditions around the world? We got to watch an amazing free concert and the Music Note Drop when we were in Nashville, TN for Christmas.
I travel during this time of year and although there are some challenges to navigating it, if you are prepared winter travel can be the best time to see the world!
Tips on Packing Your Suitcase for the Holidays
Great news, I wrote an entire post on how to pack a suitcase that saves you money. In that post, I gave you tips on how to pack light with just carry-on luggage.
One thing you need to keep in mind when packing for the holidays is what to do about gifts.
Transporting Gifts and Luggage
Yikes, you sure do have a lot of baggage! When packing Christmas gifts here are my travel tips and hacks:
- If you are visiting family or friends ship online gift purchases directly to the destination and wrap them on arrival.
- Check to see if you have the right credit card for your airline because luggage fees might be included. Look into this before you book your flight.
- If you are flying and you wrap the gifts ahead of time in carry-on bags, keep in mind that airport security can unwrap them if they need to look inside the package. Checking your bags with wrapped gifts helps to avoid this.
- If you have gifts of high value or gift cards, keep them close to you in your personal item.
- If you’re expecting to bring more gifts home than you brought with you, pack a suitcase inside a suitcase.
Wait, what does that mean? When you buy a set of luggage they nest inside each other. I start out with the 2nd suitcase nested inside the first empty one. Then, when I get to my destination I have an extra suitcase to fill and bring back home with me.
I know… my genius is showing. (*blush*)
PRO TIP: Consider flying Southwest Airlines, which allows all customers to check two bags weighing up to 50 pounds each for FREE.
Holiday Travel Tips for Getting to Your Destination
Flying During the Holiday Season
Thanksgiving is the most traveled holiday in the United States and the busiest time of year at airports across the country. Busy airports mean limited parking.
Don’t wait until the last minute to figure out how to navigate airport parking during the holiday travel season.
Rental cars get taken quickly so secure yours in advance.
FUN FACT: For the last few years the single busiest travel day of the year was the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
There are several companies that offer park-and-ride transfers to/from the airport.
With these companies, you park your car in a secure lot a few miles away from the airport. A small shuttle van takes your group from/to the off-site parking lot to/from the airport.
If you aren’t getting a rental car at the airport, schedule your airport transfer to your final destination FAR in ADVANCE.
The best part about booking with these third-party sites is you don’t pay until the day of the experience. Also, if for some reason your plans change, you can cancel within 24 hours with no fees!
Make sure you set aside extra time to get to the airport earlier than usual. The security lines are VERY long around the holidays, even if you have the TSA precheck.
If you get there too early then you can always hang out in the airport lounge (check your rewards credit card to see if they have elite status with complimentary access).
It’s a good idea to book direct flights and book the early morning flight just because it is most likely to depart on time without any issues.
You have to be an early bird just this one time because the peace of mind is worth it.
PRO TIP: Sometimes I travel on the ACTUAL holiday and the airports are not busy.
Driving During the Holiday Season
Maybe you decided on a road trip to avoid any air travel flight delays and high flight prices. Great idea! Just be aware that most of the typical road stops might not have food and bathrooms available if you are traveling on an actual holiday.
For example, if you usually stop at Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts to grab a snack and use the bathroom when you are taking a road trip, you won’t have that option on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day. You can still use standard rest stops but pack snacks and an empty water bottle that you can refill at water fountains for that long drive.
Holiday Travel Tips for Eating Out
There's an App for That
Here it is… My BEST holiday travel tip out of my Top Secret Holiday Travel Tips and Hacks!
First, imagine two cute girls who decided to do a little hiking on Thanksgiving Day. Then they were hungry and thought they could easily find a place to eat. After all, Thanksgiving is centered around food and restaurants have food… it made sense at the time.
Now, imagine two (still cute but slightly sad) girls eating filet-o-fish sandwiches from McDonald’s because they couldn’t find ANYTHING else that was open.
Eating out on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, or Christmas Day
Guess what I discovered? TWO awesome apps that actually tell you what restaurants are open AND allow you to easily make reservations online in advance.
Aside from using OpenTable or Resy to find a place to eat, since we travel so much on the holidays, one of our Christmas Traditions became eating Chinese on Christmas Day. The Chinese restaurants are ALWAYS open on Christmas Day so that’s a great backup plan if you can’t find something.
Tips on Things to Do During Holiday Travel
Go to the Movies
Just like discovering that Chinese restaurants are always open on Christmas Day, we also learned that the movie theater is open EVERY day of the year! It’s our go-to thing to do at night when we are traveling during the holiday season.
Usually, we pretty much have the theater to ourselves… except that ONE time in AR that it was PACKED! Get your tickets online in advance just to be safe.
Self-Guided Street Tours
Do you love street art? It’s one of my favorite things to do when I’m traveling and it’s one of the BEST things to do if you travel during the holiday. In Nashville, TN there is a very popular mural of wings and there’s always a super long line to get a picture there. Guess who went on New Year’s Day and there was no line?!
Do some research ahead of time because there are cities like Philadelphia, PA that have apps with self-guided walking street art tours.
Pinterest is also a great place to search for murals in the city you are visiting.
You can do any type of self-guided street tour on a major holiday.
I use and love the app GPSmyCity because they have a TON of self-guided street tours all over the world!
Take a Tour
PRO TIP: I've found that popular tourist destinations are much less busy when you visit ON the actual holiday.
The best part about using these apps is if you have to cancel because your plans change, there’s typically no cancellation fee!
Tips for Making Your Holiday Trip Memorable
I know one of the main goals during the holiday season is to spend time with people you love and have a good time.
If you’ve been reading my content for a minute then you know my goal is to help you create core memories with people you love. Here are some tangible ways you can make your holiday trips memorable.
Start a Collection:
Most people have a collection of something. I collect a Christmas ornament everywhere I travel. Then once a year when I’m decorating my tree I can look back and remember all the wonderful places I’ve visited. My ornament collection is truly the one possession I value the most.
Make a Travel Scrapbook Journal:
Super exciting news… I have been creating destination-themed travel activity journals that you can get on my Amazon Storefront! You and your family can memorialize your holiday travels so you can look back and remember more details, as well as pass down or share your experiences with others.
The travel activity journals are filled with:
- Activity Pages- crossword puzzles, word searches, quizzes, adult coloring pages, and more are scattered throughout each journal to help pass the time if you have a long flight, drive, or train ride.
- Journal Pages- lined pages for journaling and lots of journaling prompts to help get you thinking!
- Scrapbook Pages- the journal includes pages to draw and/or to attach photos, ticket stubs, and other mementos.
My #1 Top Secret Holiday Travel Tip for Returning Home After Your Vacation
I know you had a great time on your trip and now you are expert holiday travelers. Nice! Imagine you are about 40 minutes from home when you realize you don’t have anything there to eat, you’re exhausted, and you’re starving. Not so nice!
My best return travel tip of all time is to order food from a company like Uber Eats or Doordash to be delivered to your house while you are on your way home.
I time it so that about 5 minutes after I get home and bring my luggage in, my food arrives and I can eat a delicious healthy meal. Game changer. You’re welcome, travel buddy! (*wink*)
I truly hope all my top secret holiday travel tips and hacks have helped you to fill your holidays with love and happiness! Make sure you’re following along on social media so you never miss a travel tip.
If you liked my Top Secret Holiday Travel Tips and Hacks, then you might also want to read Top 5 Things You Need to Know When Finding a Hotel.
SUBSCRIBE with your email to get notified of new posts.
Don’t forget to SHARE and PIN for later!
You might also like:
LET’S CONNECT: Do you have any top secret holiday travel tips to share? Comment below!