It’s getting to that time of the year again, the holiday season! With decorations up in the malls since September and Christmas carols in full swing (not to mention, the accompanying tune of car horns caught in silly season traffic), it doesn’t make you a bad person to think of heading out of the city (or country) this coming December.
Whether it be to visit relatives overseas (and lets face it, any relative on another island is technically “overseas”), or just taking that well deserved break from work, a trip can be just what you need at this time of the year.
Here are some hot tips on how to make it as painless as possible, on both your wallet and stress levels:
As we all know, holiday season flights can get a little pricey. So the first order of business is book as early as possible to get the best prices. Subscribe to different airlines emails to know when the sales are, and set alerts on airline search apps like Skyscanner, Momondo and Traveloka so you know when prices have dropped. If you’re searching from a web browser, make sure you clear your browser cache frequently, or browse in “incognito mode”. The reason is that flight search sites remember your searches and will sometimes show higher prices when you search the same route again, making you think you need to book ASAP before prices go up.
Another awesome site I subscribe to is www.secretflying.com, which emails me each day some of the best deals in the region (although, you need to be a little flexible with your dates). They have lots of crazy deals from multiple airlines over Christmas and New Years (like HK-Los Angeles for $361 round trip or Singapore-London One way for $109). Add an inexpensive flight to HK or Singapore and it’s still an awesome deal.
Christmas for me means spending time with family in Sydney.
Here I am a few years ago with my mum, brother Steve and nephew James.
I got to hang around and explore Athens after finding
a $450 direct roundtrip ticket from Singapore.
Once you’ve booked your flight, you need to take care of other necessities. Travel insurance is a good one, as you don’t want to get caught with huge medical bills in another country. I get mine from a quality online insurer like WorldNomads (recommended by Lonely Planet). Rates are reasonable and it only takes a few minutes online to register, get a quote and pay. Added bonus is that if you decide to extend your trip later on, you can just add extra days onto you policy, even if you’ve already started the trip.
You never know when that travel insurance might come in handy…
Packing. Obviously, pack for the environment you’re going to. If you’re opting for a white Christmas, then pack some warm stuff! My best recommendation is to layer. Bring some thermal undershirts, put your regular clothes on top and then have an all purpose warm and wind resistant jacket you can throw over the top and easily take off when you’re indoors. Make sure it’s wind resistant! The wind chill factor can double how cold the temperature feels. And always check the weather forecast before you leave.
Rocking up to Amsterdam without checking the weather forecast means its time to invest in a thicker jacket…
Gifts. If you’re going to visit relatives, then you’re probably likely to bring gifts. Remember to keep size and weight in mind when buying them. (Smaller and lighter is always better). Anything valuable like a new iPad for your Tita should always be put in your hand carry, never in your check-in. It’s a sad truth that Christmas is also the most active time for baggage theft.
Checking in. If you can, check in online (after first weighing and prepaying online for any excess baggage allowance you may need). Then, when going to the airport, keep in mind:
a) holiday season traffic (always check Waze and add at least 30min allowance on top of that) and
b) crazy long lines at the airport entrance, check in counters and immigration.
Sadly, there’s really no magic trick to bypassing these hassles. The best you can do is arm yourself with a lot of time, a good book and a happy attitude. There are few things more stressful than rushing and thinking you might miss your flight. Think about it, you’ve spent weeks planning, a bunch of cash on tickets and accommodation, and you’re going to risk all of that by trying to cut it close so you don’t have to spend an extra 30 minutes at the airport? Bite the bullet and make sure you have plenty of time. That being said, if you’re flying out of NAIA Terminal 3 in Manila, get dropped off at the last couple of gates. The lines are usually a lot shorter there (same goes if you enter from the car park).
Going to the terminal gates further down the concourse usually means much smaller lines than this one.
Well, that’s about it. Now all you have to do is go ahead, book that holiday season trip and get packing.
Happy Holidays everyone and I’ll see you in the new year!