Going Home for the Holidays? Read This.
You know we’ve reached the holidays when…
The term, “spicy,” is no longer referring to a type of hot sauce, but a pumpkin, ginger, or apple spice instead.
The candy section at Target is taking over half of the store, and it’s changing weekly.
It’s hella dark outside, so by the time you get home your bed, some candles and a Gilmore Girls marathon is everything you’ve ever wanted.
Your closet looks brand new because you switched all your bathing suits and denim cutoffs for sweaters and tights.
You suddenly think you know how to bake. Mhmm.
But with these seasonal changes comes a lot of financial stress, schedule changing, and post-dinner-pant-stretching. So as someone who spends 100% of her “vacation” time on trips to go see her family, I have learned a few tricks for holiday travel.
Top 5 really good rules to live by:
Hurdle: asking the person who pays your salary to pay for days where you won’t be sitting at your desk.
Why this is important: Everyone deserves to be with their loved ones during the holiday season, so it’s important to get the conversation started early. It shows that you respect the input of your supervisors, the time of your fellow co-workers, and the work that needs to be done.
Be careful: If you wait too long to ask, you put your employers in a position to make a quick decision and you may not like the result. It looks more like an impulse decision to get as far away from work as possible, than a desire to snuggle with your family, pets, and eat your grandma’s cooking.
Hurdle: not having your paid-time-off approved while watching your desired plane ticket change dollar by dollar.
Why this is important: When you go to search for a plane ticket and get an initial price, airlines will adjust their pricing based on the popularity of that time and day. If you buy too early, you could miss out on a huge price drop. If you buy too late, you could be buying at a severely inflated rate, with all the other last-minute-ers (that’s a thing, I think).
Hack: I highly recommend downloading my favorite app, Hopper, because it shows you the best and the worst times to buy your ticket. Plus, it shows you which days are going to be cheaper than others. Green is good, red is bad. You can “watch” certain flights, and be notified of the best time to buy. It gives you the ability to know what you’re going to have to spend and when.
Hurdle: sacrificing basic level comfort to get a little bit more family time or me-time (if that’s what you’re going for).
Why this is important: To be honest, this is just a personal preference, but coming from someone who doesn’t get a ton of time off, I want to make the most of my time with family. If you’re going from west coast to east coast, you could take a late night, red-eye flight that gets you on the other side of the country at 6 or 7 in the morning. You could sleep on the flight and then get a full day with your family the next day, instead of wasting a day in the air. If you’re going from east coast to west coast, you could wait until the last possible minute to leave and *technically* be home in a couple of hours. For example: a flight leaving Atlanta at 7:00pm EST, will arrive in Los Angeles at 9:00 PST.
Be careful: Depending on the airline, when you book a red eye flight, you could be booking a flight that requires you to leave a day earlier than you thought. So let’s say you’re trying to fly out on December 21st on a red eye flight, and you choose a 12:41am flight. You are technically ARRIVING at the airport on December 20th for your December 21st flight. It has happened to me twice now. Twice. Anyone else make this mistake? Anyone? No? Just me. Cool.
Hurdle: keeping curious eyes away from the unwrapped presents inside your suitcase.
Why this is important: Every airport you fly through is going to be brutal on your suitcase, especially if the contents look suspicious and TSA needs to “randomly screen it.” So anything that’s wrapped is going to be tossed around, squished, or just thrown away. Trust me, TSA “confiscated” my Cards Against Humanity. Bruh.
Do this instead: Find a way to integrate/pack the presents with your clothing. If you’re gifting a bottle of wine, slide it into the leg of your boots. If you’re gifting a serving dish, fold your sweaters around it. If you’re just getting “I Love LA” t-shirts this year, fold them into your other clothing so you don’t have to worry about your little brother spoiling it for everyone. Bring an unopened pack of tissue paper and gift bags to use for wrapping once you arrive at your destination.
Hurdle: wanting to do all that work you didn’t finish before you left while your cousins are asking you to go see a movie with them.
Why this is important: If your employer has given you time off, and you are not sitting at your desk, you should be doing everything BUT work. Why ask for time off if you’re just going to do what you always do, but in a different location? Obviously, if your boss calls you and says, “help i’m bleeding,” you should call 911 and wait for further instructions. But if Billy down the hall emails you, asking where something is on the server, you should put the phone down and let Billy ask someone else; someone who is at work. Don’t become the plot of a Hallmark Christmas movie.
Remember: The first two steps get you here. If you give your employers plenty of notice and they approve, if you buy that expensive (or maybe not so expensive) plane ticket, you should be in the moment with your friends and family. There will be a time when that comes back around to you, but until then, if you’re going to put in the work, reap the rewards.
5 Bonus Round Tips:
Get to the airport an hour before you think you should get there. TSA recently updated some of their rules on what you can and cannot take through security, so you and every other person going somewhere over the next few months are going to have to stand in a line that’s a little bit longer than it used to be. (The best place to wait for your plane is at the gate, amiright?)
Make an Amazon wish list and share it with your friends and family. If your family is the type to exchange lots of gifts, ask them to ship yours directly to your home. Trying to get all that back in your suitcase could be a nightmare. Plus, if you create a wishlist, you’re more likely to get exactly what you want from Santa this year.
If it’s the night before you leave and you realize you forgot about bonus tip #2, don’t stress. Just bring a foldable duffle bag to throw in your luggage, and bring it as a carry-on for your return trip. **It’s also handy for separating your clean clothes from your dirty clothes. This is my personal favorite.
Invest in a really good travel credit card (you can read about our suggestions here). Because I signed up when I did, I was eligible for 70,000 bonus miles after 3 months of use, and although that won’t kick in for my trip this year, it will pay for my ticket home next year.
Christmas Eve and New Years Eve are on a Monday this year. Double-check with your employer to see if you have those days off, because if you do, you could have some really great 4-day weekends ahead of you.
AND IF YOU’RE STILL READING THIS, NEVER FORGET: travel looks good on you.