family gathered around a table enjoying coffee and hot chocolate

Live Comfortably - December 6, 2019

Last-Minute Holiday Travel Tips: How to See Family with Style (and Sanity)

by Kathie Miller

High-season rates. Weather delays. Lost luggage (containing gifts!). Traveling to see family, or having them visit can be stressful and challenging. Luckily, you can still control some of the variables when planning travel–during this holiday season or any time of year. Try these three, simple tips for a safer, smoother season of giving and togetherness… a season we should all enjoy year-round.

1) Research before you fly.

Use technology wisely to get the best rates. Although flight-booking sites and airlines deny that browser search histories influence fares, it is possible, according to Consumer Reports. Raw research suggests that search traffic for flight pricing may affect actual fares. To stump the metrics, try doing your research on one computer/browser, then booking your tickets through a different one, or through an app on your phone.

For the best chance at the lowest cost per ticket, price the same flights several times over multiple days, both from devices that have “cookies” or search history in place, and a device that has its search-history functions “scrubbed” or turned off. Finally, keep checking prices even after you book. By law, you can generally cancel tickets without penalty within 24 hours of purchase, if you’re not traveling within a week. Be sure to call your booking service or airline for details.

2) Try an alternative location to eliminate big-group stress.

Families tend to grow in numbers over time as they welcome new members. Managing the size and varied tastes of a large group can be a handful for hosts. To lessen the burden, try renting a home for the holiday (or near the holiday for the best pricing).

Short-term rentals through Airbnb and Vrbo (Vacation Rentals By Owner) allow you to choose a central location by region or city, and select the optimal number of bedrooms and baths for all your guests. Your own home might feel cramped, but someone else’s home might give you all the space you need to enjoy your together time while also having your own personal space. Bonus: you use someone else’s kitchen to overrun with holiday meal making and cleanup is typically covered with a cleaning fee.

3) Group on the go? Forget the nutmeg? Try a driver or a delivery service.

Logistics for coffee runs or afternoon outings become more difficult once the family has arrived and group decision-making stalls. If you’re not already using rideshare services, now is the time to try them. Instead of cramming into the mini-van or SUV on a snowy afternoon, try calling for a Lyft Plus or Uber XL ride and get everyone in an already-heated large sedan or van in no time. Let experienced drivers handle holiday traffic and seasonal road conditions. Hiring a driver also eliminates the age-old standoff over who gets to drive!

For similar ease, many supermarkets offer grocery delivery, meaning you can skip dodging carts in busy store aisles, looking for last-minute items. If delivery isn’t available in your area, your local or regional store, such as Harris Teeter or Whole Foods, may offer order-at-home grocery pick-up service. If so, you can place your order through an app and have it bagged and ready for drive-through checkout at the store when you arrive.

Enjoy the Holidays

Whether you’re traveling across town or out of the country to see family and friends this year, set yourself up for smooth sailing by paying attention to these travel-savvy tricks. That said, don’t forget to pack your patience, just in case.

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As Corporate Director of Marketing & Communications, Kathie Miller provides strategic guidance and tactical support for all areas of Goodwin House. She writes, edits and manages The Good Life blog and newsletter. Kathie joined GHI in 2014 after nearly 15 years at NPR, where she honed her skills in brand and reputation management, content marketing and internal communications. Originally from Pennsylvania, Kathie has slowly come to realize she’s lived in Arlington for more than half her life and should call herself a Virginian. She enjoys the outdoors and brings her rescue dog, Remi, to work every day.

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