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The holidays are quickly approaching, so for many of us, that means making trips across the country to be with loved ones. If you’re not headed out to see family or friends, many Canadians also take advantage of time off over the month of December for a much-needed winter escape from the cold.
If you’re planning your own holiday vacay, whether it’s a trip back home or a warm-weather getaway, there are always challenges that come with leaving at the busiest time of the year. That’s why we enlisted the help of Barry Choi, a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert, to share some of his top tips to ensure that any trip goes smoothly.
One of the first things that Choi recommends to make the most of your travel experience? Planning ahead to avoid unnecessary costs and hassle.
“Don't wait to book your trip. The holiday season is right around the corner so you should book your flights and hotels before there's no more availability,” he said.
And when it comes to choosing your travel dates, there are two days that you’ll want to avoid, while others will make for easier and less busy trips.
“Generally speaking, Christmas Eve and New Year's Day are some of the busiest days to travel during the holidays. The week leading up to Christmas can be busy too. If you're able to head out during the first week of December or head home after New Year's, things will likely be less chaotic.”
If you plan on driving to the airport, there are also some ways that you can save, just by doing a little research in advance. “Quite often you can get a discount by prepaying for your parking, just check the airport's website,” revealed Choi.
You’ll also want to make sure that you’ve thought through what you’ll be bringing with you, and how much time you’ll need to allot for clearing security.
“Presumably you'll be bringing home gifts, so make sure you have a packing list so you don't forget anything, as well as a suitcase big enough to fit everything you need,” Choi added. “If you're just travelling to take a break during the holidays, it's probably a good idea to arrive 30 minutes earlier than usual in case lines are longer than expected.”
If you’re a frequent traveller, Choi also suggests signing up for programs like the NEXUS card, which dramatically cuts down on the amount of time you’ll spend in line at customs.
If all else fails and you do find yourself stuck in a stressful situation, know that it’s only temporary and you will get through it. Choi recommends staying relaxed and keeping yourself calm in whatever way helps.
“That could mean eating a nice meal at the airport, meditating in your chair or visiting the airport lounge before your flight. Anything that makes you happy will likely make your travel less painful.”
Choi also shared a few of his airport must-haves, so read on to find the three items that he never travels without.
“A packing list is essential but one thing you also want to use is packing cubes since they'll compress all your clothes and create more space in your luggage.”
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“A phone charger is a must whenever you're travelling. Some airline planes have USB and AC plugs, but there's no guarantee they'll work.”
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“Load up your phone with some music and/or ebooks and enjoy the ride. Don't forget your headphones as the ones they provide on airplanes are of terrible quality.
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