The holidays are meant to be a happy time of year, but nothing adds stress to them faster than crowded airports, grumpy travelers and a trip that doesn’t go as planned. While we can’t guarantee that every trip will go off without a hitch, we can help you minimize problems and be prepared for (almost) anything with these eight sanity-saving tips.

Travel early or late in the day

If your schedule allows it, look for flights that are off peak hours – typically early in the morning or later in the day – on the actual holiday. While they will still be busy, they tend to be less busy than flights occurring at ideal times.

Minimize connections

While a flight with multiple connections can normally be manageable (and often more affordable), the Holidays are not the time to use them, especially if you’re traveling with your family in tow.

The more connections you have, the more you increase the odds of logistical problems. This can range from missed connections, to flight delays, to misplaced luggage, all of which are amplified due to the higher-than-normal volume of travelers going through airports.

Pack light or ship it

Skip the luggage lineups altogether by packing what you need in a carry-on bag and shipping the rest – including cumbersome gifts and food – ahead of travel. This will allow you to save significant time, move around nimbly and avoid crowded luggage hubs altogether.

Companies like Luggage-free and Send my Bag offer at-home pickup, on-time delivery guarantees, insurance coverage for your belongings, and tracking at reasonable rates that are worth gold compared to the convenience they provide, especially at this time of year.

Make your luggage uniquely identifiable

If you end up traveling with checked luggage, this is a great time to make sure your bags are uniquely identifiable. Deck them out with unique luggage tags, colorful luggage straps, stickers or tape. The more they stand out, the less likely they are to be confused for someone else’s bags and lost in the chaos.

Plan for the unexpected

It’s a bit of a given at this time of year that you’re bound to run into crowded spaces, unexpected delays or detours and other cheer-sucking situations. While you can’t plan for all of it, you can plan for some of it and cut down your frustration along the way.

  • Plan your route to the airport ahead of time and think of a few lesser known alternatives that you could use if traffic is backed up.
  • Give yourself more time than usual before your flight in case of lineups.
  • Have a backup plan in every connecting city in case you get stuck staying overnight.
  • Keep important numbers on hand in your devices and on paper (including your travel agent’s emergency number)
  • Bring airport-safe snacks and food in case you get stuck or delayed with no food in sight.
  • Look up security checkpoint options in the airports you’ll be using. If one is busy, you’ll have a backup to try.

Load up those travel apps

Before you leave, load up on travel apps like Flightaware (for real-time delay updates and more,) GateGuru (for approximate wait time at security checkpoints) and Tripit (to keep all your travel documents and itineraries in one place)

Prepare ahead for security

Security lines will be long enough without the extra hassle of being unprepared and disorganized. Make sure you travel with a minimum of accessories like a belt, jewelry or other items you need to remove for screening. Put them in your carry-on if you must travel with them. Then, pack items like liquids and laptops in packs that are easy to pull out for screening.

If you are travelling with children, use family lanes if they’re available and make sure your children know and understand what to expect during the security screening.

Bring plenty of entertainment

Sometimes, there’s just no way to avoid long lines or flight delays despite your best effort. Rather than getting frustrated, prepare for it and keep yourself (and your family) busy with some of your favorite things. Load up your electronic devices with good movies and music, bring an extra book or make sure you have plenty of sudoku to keep you busy. Whatever will help you pass time and keep you cheerful will work.

What other tricks do you use?

Got any other tried and tested holiday travel tips? Share them with us in the comments below!