Travel tips for the holidays

Traveling for business is something I’ve done extensively since I’ve left academia 5 years ago. Going into the private sector and working for various large corporates, I’ve traveling for sales meetings, team meetings, conferences, and more. Over the years I’ve picked up a few tricks of the trade to make the journey easier. They particularly come in handy over the holidays, when airports are a more frenzied mess than the Tokyo subway in rush hour.

The holidays are pretty synonymous with migration. Even the biblical story accompanying the season has a travel theme. Nowadays, there are few families I know where not at least some of the family members have to travel some distance to see their loved ones.

With so many of us traveling this week to make it in time for Christmas dinner, take some travel tips to heart to reduce some of the stress. Some will seem like such common sense they are not even worth mentioning in an article, but you’d be surprised how many people forget to actually implement them. Like leaving home with some extra time to spare… It’s silly not to, but particularly when you travel a lot during the year and you are used to breezing through with boarding pass and carry-on luggage in hand, you are so used to not needing that extra time that you might forget to schedule it in now.

5 Tips for a smooth trip

1. Give yourself extra time

I have to start here because it is the one thing that makes the most sense. But as I said above, if even I forget to do this, I am definitely not the only one. When you get really good at navigating airports and you are traveling with just carry-on luggage, you are hard pressed to give yourself more than an hour at the airport for domestic or short haul flights. Remember that all airports are going to be very busy, and you still need to go through security. Add on inclement weather, and you missed flights and tears are suddenly a real possibility. I flew to Amsterdam this week, and was mildly annoyed with myself for forgetting that the airport was going to be mayhem. I barely made it in time to the gate, when normally I would have had plenty of time for a coffee before the flight.

Photo by Anna Dziubinska on Unsplash

2. Have a sense of humor

Inclement weather and flight delays go as well together as mulled wine and mince pies. As I write this, my social media feeds are full of posts from stranded friends.

Easier said that done: when you’re already tired and the prospect of listening to your slightly crazy aunt go on and on about her various cats, a flight delay or other setback isn’t adding to the fun. Try to see some good in the set backs and if you are traveling through inclement weather, just bear in mind that you need to give yourself extra time to reach your destination. Yelling at the check-in assistant won’t get you home any faster.

This brings me to tip number 3…

3. Charge all your devices fully, and take spare batteries

When you do get delayed, or worse, you will need your mobile devices. Whether to call your airline to reschedule your flight, call home to let them know you are going to be late, or just to keep yourself entertained. Having a fully charged laptop and mobile phone is going to go a long way. Also going back to the issue of busy airports: charging ports are going to be hot commodities anyways. If people get stranded, even more so. If you have some battery packs you can take along, definitely do so.

charge devices before you travel

4. Carry-on spare clothes

Usually everything goes well, but if your bags go missing (for some time) you are going to be grateful for a full change of clothes. Gifts are also best packed in carry-on for the same reasons. That’s not always realistic, but if I need to choose I’d make sure I have some extra clothes. If gifts arrive late, that’s not nearly as bad as having nothing to wear on the other end. A little while ago I had to fly to San Diego on business. My bag went missing and ended up somewhere in Miami. The airline had to compensate a bit for the inconvenience, so you’d think this is pretty fantastic… right? Not so much, I was wearing my oldest pair of muddy running shoes. Not particularly something I wanted to show up on in my meeting the next morning. Even if the airline would pay for the new shoes, the inconvenience wasn’t worth it and the difficulty in procuring them was not worth a free pair of shoes. With jetlag in tow, I had to Google for a shoe shop open at the crack of dawn to buy the first acceptable pair I could find. Not to mention the awkward outfit I cobbled together from bits and pieces in my carry-on, my travel clothes, and a purchased piece from the hotel shop.

5. Double check your insurance

Ok, this won’t get you from point A to B in most cases, but it is worth a mention. I thought my travel insurance was on an automatic payment plan, and just double checked I was still insured before flying to South Africa this fall. I checked even though I was so sure it was all good, just for extra peace of mind. So guess what, I had not been insured for six months (!) because I didn’t tick the “auto-renew” box after all on my original policy application. Even when not traveling to exotic locations, it is good to have insurance up to date. Not only that, make sure your travel companions/family/emergency contact person has all your policy details. While ideally nothing bad ever happens, especially not during the holidays, if it does you do not need this extra admin hassle to worry about. Also, if you are in an accident that leaves you unable to call for the info yourself, or otherwise find it, the people you are with need to know where the information is and what they need to do. I keep a copy of my policy information with all my travel documents, and make sure to email it to the person I am traveling with. If I am on the road alone, I make sure my next of kin or a trusted friend has the info as well. Maybe this extra caution I have around insurance comes from being Dutch, apparently my people are among the most over-insured! Still, being prepared is worth a lot.

Christine Buske is a former academic who left science at the bench, and now considers herself a woman in tech. She is a frequently invited speaker, and enjoys talking about career transformation (particularly leaving academia for the business world), tech, issues around women in tech, product management, agile, and outreach. She is a proud Canadian resident, and qualifies as a "serial expat".


  1. Anshula

    15 December

    As someone who loves traveling, I love all of these tips! I can’t agree with the have a sense of humor tip more. I always like to look as travel mishaps as the best funny travel stories to tell my nieces and nephews.

    • Christine Buske

      18 December

      Exactly! adventures always make for great stories! 🙂 Thanks for reading

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