It’s the season to be cheerful – and get to the airport early.
From last-minute gift shopping to awkward in-laws, Christmas can be stressful at the best of times.
Traveling for holidays can aggravate these Christmas angst. With strikes and bad weather predicted, the specter of cancellations and delays looms large.
Fortunately, help is at hand. Euronews Travel spoke to an expert to help you prepare for an easy trip this holiday season.
“Travel is stressful enough at the best of times,” says Evan Day, Head of EMEA Country Management at KAYAK.
“Christmas is a particularly busy period.
Here’s everything you need to know to beat the stress and ensure a smooth trip this Christmas.
Which strikes take place during the Christmas period?
Travel by train and plane is likely to be strongly impacted by strike during the busy holiday season.
Air traffic control staff in Portugal are set to go on strike, as are cabin crew at Spain-based Ryanair and Border Force officers at the UK’s busiest airports.
Euronews Travel has compiled a list of ongoing strikes; it is regularly updated, so log in to stay ahead of new developments.
How early must I be at the airport ?
Many strikes will impact the time it takes to get to the airport. Plan ahead to avoid delays — and give yourself plenty of time to get to the terminal, advises Day.
“The main advice is quite boring: go to the early airport and give yourself plenty of time,” he says.
In most cases, you should arrive at the airport between two and three hours before a flight. Arriving earlier than that can aggravate queues, as over-eager travelers clog up the departures hall.
However, airports will occasionally change this advice – for example, passengers at the besieged Amsterdam airport Schiphol Airport were advised to arrive five hours before takeoff in the summer. Check the website of your departure airport in the days leading up to your trip.
How to avoid long queues at the airport?
There are different ways to reduce the waiting time. To get through security, avoid wearing too much jewelry – metal will trigger scanners – and make sure you don’t carry liquids over 100ml.
If you are traveling with handbag only you will be able to walk past baggage drop and collection at each end of your flight.
“If you have the option of traveling only with hand luggage, it can save you a lot of time at the airport,” says Day.
Alternatively, many airports and airlines offer expedited passage through security.
“It’s not too expensive. You can usually buy it from your airline or travel agent,” advises Day.
“It just helps you, gives you some peace of mind to skip the lines when you come through the security gates.”
What should I do if my flight is canceled over Christmas?
Even the most savvy travelers are sometimes confronted with a flight cancellation or delay.
If your flight is canceled less than 14 days before the scheduled departure date, you will likely be entitled to compensation.
According to European regulations, this amounts to €250 per person for flights of 1,500 km or less, and €400 for flights between 1,500 and 3,500 km. For all flights over 3,500 km, it is €600.
“It’s about understanding your options,” says Day.
“In most cases, you will have the option of taking an alternate flight or route to get where you want to go. But if that’s not an option, or if it’s not right for you, you should always have the possibility of refund.”
Pay attention to the form that repayment takes, Day says.
“Travel agencies and airlines like to…give away vouchers because it means you’ll come back and book with them again. One thing we generally recommend is trying to request a cash refund.
If you booked flights with a credit card, you may also have the option of requesting a refund through your bank.
What should I do if I haven’t booked my Christmas trip yet?
If you haven’t booked your trip yet, don’t panic, Day advises – there are still some “good deals” for those willing to be flexible.
“The day you fly can have a big impact on the price and also the crowds at the airport,” he says.
“Unsurprisingly, the days leading up to Christmas and the days between Christmas and New Years can be the busiest.
Flying on New Year’s Eve itself – when most people are celebrating – can be a good way to get a cheap deal. Day also recommends using KAYAK, the online booking platform, to filter out expensive days and tailor the dates and times you want to travel.
What are the best alternatives to flying?
If you want to reduce your risk of disruption – and minimize your carbon footprint – consider taking the train.
With a rail network that stretches over 200,000 km, Europe has many options for rail passengers.
It’s also better for the planet – according to the European Environment Agency, Travel by rail represents 14 grams of CO2 emissions per passenger-mile. Air travel generates 285 grams over the same distance.
Watch the video for more tips for stress-free travel this festive season.