8 Tips for Surviving the Airports at Christmas

By: Lindsay MacNevin
ARLINGTON, VA - DECEMBER 22: A Christmas tree is seen at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on Monday December 22, 2014 in Arlington, VA. (Photo by Matt McClain/ The Washington Post) The Washington Post / The Washington Post

Airports are extremely busy during the holiday season and often full of weary travelers, some stranded because of weather delays, some with crying kids in tow and all wanting to get to their destination as quickly as possible. Traveling through an airport during the Christmas season promises to be stressful, irritating and normally necessary. In order to make your travels worry-free, here are eight tips for surviving these crazy busy airports during the Christmas rush.


8. Baggage Allowance

Knowing the baggage allowance before arriving at the airport is essential in keeping your cool when it comes time to check those bags. More and more airlines have started charging for first bags, even if you are flying domestically. It is up to you to check with the airline before hand to see how much money you will have to cough up. Also make sure to check with weight allowances as it is often cheaper to check a second bag rather than pay for an overweight one. We can’t think of anything worse than waiting in an hour long line up only to get up to the front and them tell you your bag weighs too much and you will have to rearrange. Not only is it frustrating for you as the peering eyes of those behind you are drilling into your skull but its also frustrating to the agents who are just trying to do their jobs.

Checked Baggage

7. Arrive Early

This sounds like a no-brainer but arriving early during the busy holiday season is an absolute MUST. Gone are the days when you can show up an hour before your flight and have enough time to check in, go through security and grab a coffee. The holiday season throws everything you thought you knew about travel out the window. Lines are going to be longer for everything as the amount of travelers has just increased tenfold. From check in to security to lines to getting your coffee, expect to wait longer. There is no trick to beating these lines during the holiday season either, just give yourself enough time. Don’t despair too much though, most airports are offering holiday entertainment in terms of carolers, Santa Claus and more to keep you entertained during the long process.

Oleg Mikhaylov / Shutterstock.com
Oleg Mikhaylov / Shutterstock.com

6. Check in Online

We cannot stress this enough, seeing as it is the 21st century and pretty much everyone knows how to use the internet, or knows someone who can use it for them. The option to check in online is available through most major carriers and will save you loads of time at the airport. Not only do most companies now have kiosks that you can use instead of waiting in line, but checking in online cuts down your check in time in half, especially if you are traveling internationally. Normally the time to check in online is 24 hours ahead of your flight and not only can you check in, choose your seat and input your passport details but in some cases you can even pay baggage fees. This easy solution will save you time and frustration when you arrive at the overly busy airport.

computer research

5. Prepare for Delays

Christmas happens to fall in winter for half of the world and with winter comes snow, fog, rain and ice, which means your plane will most likely be delayed at some point. First things first, Mother Nature listens to no one which means the airlines are just as frustrated as you when there are delays and cancellations. Secondly the airport is at its busiest which means even more flights are cancelled and delayed and more people are stranded alongside of you. The best way to prepare yourself for this is to do so ahead of time. Pack snacks and activities that will keep you entertained. Make sure to snag a seat near a plug so you can charge your electronics. Bring an eye mask and try to snooze the hours away. Explore the shops and restaurants in the airport, many of them offering Christmas specials or turkey dinners. And remember, the airlines can’t control the weather.

Photo by: Twin Cities
Photo by: Twin Cities


4. Don’t Joke about Bombs

It sounds simple really, don’t joke about bombs or guns or anything that may arouse suspicion with security. Security is already heightened during the holiday season and you can bet that security guards are closely listening to passengers as they go through the check in process. Now is not the time to joke about the bomb in your bag or the envelope of anthrax you packed (although this is never appropriate no matter the time of year). In regards to guns or weapons, if you are traveling with them do make sure you are filling out the appropriate paperwork in order to travel with them. And if you happen to leave your Swiss Army knife in your pocket and try to go through security, chances are they will confiscating it and you won’t be seeing it ever again.

robert paul van beets / Shutterstock.com
robert paul van beets / Shutterstock.com

3. Don’t Forget Your Kids

No we aren’t talking about forgetting your kids as in Home Alone style when they left poor little Kevin alone over the holidays. We are talking about remembering to bring things to entertain the wee ones at the airport. Nothing is worse for kids than being stuck in an airport, lugging around a suitcase and a backpack, meanwhile having to wait in lines. Kids get bored and it is imperative to remember that when traveling through the airport at Christmas. Make sure you pack extra snacks, coloring books, iPads, mini cars, Barbie’s, etc. to keep them occupied during long waits. If you happen to have time to kill make sure you go check out the kid’s area in the airport, most big hubs have great areas designed with kids in mind. At your wits end? Find Santa and remind your kids that he is the one who decides whether or not they get presents.

child at airport

2. Check Airline Rules

This is another thing that passengers tend to forget or don’t know about, airlines actually change their rules over the holidays because of how busy it gets. For example, some airlines that normally accept large animals will no longer accept them over the holiday season. If you were planning on bringing Storm, an 80 pound Black Lab with you on holidays, you may be out of luck. Also reward programs may not be in effect during the holiday season which means if you were planning on flying on reward miles, you are also out of luck. Again all it takes is a simple phone call or google search on the airline to find out these rules ahead of time.

liquids airport

1. Be Nice

There is something about airports that turn regular people into very scary monsters and during the Christmas rush it seems to get even worse. Being nice is the number one tip on surviving your holiday airport experience and getting the most out of. Nothing means more to airport employees than a kind word from a passenger, or even a box of chocolates. And hey, we can’t promise this will happen but there is a high chance of being bumped up into first class, or escorted to the front of the line when you are nice to the employees, especially at Christmas. Wishing them a Merry Christmas, letting someone go in front of you in line because they are late or even buying a coffee for a fellow passenger are all ways to make both yours and their holiday better.

airport counter