Holiday travel time: Easing your way through the airport

Posted: Updated:

Holiday travel time is right around the corner!

Being with family during the holidays can be a wonderful and rewarding experience - unless you're so stressed out by everything you went through to get there that you find it hard to enjoy yourself.

In some ways, airline travel has become easier over the past year - fewer passengers should mean shorter lines, right? But due to airline layoffs and flight reductions, flights are crowded and lines are as long as ever.

So what can you do to make your holiday trip through the airport a little easier? Let's take a page from the Scouts - Be Prepared!

CHECK IN ONLINE - And pay for your checked baggage, too. Even if you don't print out your boarding passes - many airlines will print them again when you get there anyway - just knowing you've completed two big steps before you even arrive at Sky Harbor gives you piece of mind.

An additional piece of advice - when the airlines say check in online "24 hours prior to your departure," take them at their word, especially if you want to change your seats. The closer to the top of the check in window you actually log on, the better chance you'll have to get that aisle or window seat - at least for most airlines.

ARRIVE EARLY - Yes, still, and especially over the holiday travel season. Fewer flights may mean fewer people, but the flights that are operating - and there are plenty out of Sky Harbor - are packed to the gills. You don't want to work your way through the long line to drop your check in bags - and the last three times I've traveled out of Terminal 4, the lines have been across the terminal lobby - only to arrive at the jammed-packed security checkpoints.

Especially if you're traveling with little ones, you'll want to arrive early - and check out the new "family friendly" security lines, which are a great time saver!

WEIGH YOUR BAGS BEFORE YOU GET TO THE AIRPORT - If it's been some time since you've flown, remember the strictly enforced checked baggage and overweight baggage fees. As many of you know, I think paying for checking even one bag really and truly stinks, but unless you're flying Southwest Airlines, it's the new world order so be ready.

And unless you're independently wealthy and don't mind paying high overweight baggage fees, you'll want to get a handle on your packing before you head out the door. I have used my handy-dandy luggage scale from Magellan's tons of times since I got it, but even if you have to weigh yourself on your bathroom scale and then weigh yourself with your bag, try to have at least have SOME idea of what your bag weighs before you put it on the airport scale.

There's nothing more frustrating than having to open up bags in the check-in line to shift things around. Just ask my mom - I had to throw two pounds worth of stuff in her suitcase when we were coming back from Honolulu last year.

PACK A LUNCH - Or breakfast. The days of the free lunch are long gone for some airlines and newly gone for others. If you don't want to buy expensive "on-board café" food, bring your own.

This is a good rule of thumb even for a shorter flight - you never know when your flight may be delayed or you could be flying at a time when airport restaurants are closed. Have something on hand to keep your hunger at bay.

PACK YOUR PATIENCE - Do everything you can do before you leave the house: Check in online, pay your checked bag fees (if any), have your government-issued photo ID handy and wear comfy clothes and shoes.

You'll still need to remove your shoes at Sky Harbor and the TSA's 3-1-1 rule regarding liquids in your carry on is still in effect. Leave early and once you're at the airport, be prepared for lines. Then take a deep breath and smile - you're going on vacation!


We've got lots to look at this week!

I can't tell you the last time I saw rates like this for seven-night cruises out of Los Angeles to the popular Mexican Riviera!

With stops in Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas, along with time at sea, these rates are fantastic values! Take a look:

Inside Stateroom from $399 per person, double occupancy!
Ocean View Stateroom from $470 per person, double occupancy!
Balcony Stateroom from $649 per person, double occupancy!

These rates are valid for December and January departures - although the holiday weeks are higher - and are "cruise only." Add a flight from Phoenix - or heck, drive over - and you've got a fantastic vacation value!!

Home to some lovely all-inclusive resorts, we found great package rates using the new nonstop flights from Phoenix to Montego Bay!

Grand Palladium Jamaica
Junior Suite, all-inclusive!
From $1029 per person, double occupancy!

Sunset Beach Resort & Spa (Montego Bay)
Bay View Room, all-inclusive!
From $1079 per person, double occupancy!

Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort (Ocho Rios)
Ocean View Room, all-inclusive!
From $1079 per person, double occupancy!

RIU Montego Bay
Run of House Room, all-inclusive (best available at time of check in)!
From $1089 per person, double occupancy!

The rates include round trip air from Phoenix, six nights all-inclusive accommodations as noted (all meals and beverages, including alcohol, along with tips) and airport transfers. Air taxes are additional - currently running around $98.00 per person.

Grab your passport and go!

Inside Passage Cruise out of Seattle
June 6 - June 13

We had so much fun a few summers ago, we couldn't wait to do this fantastic itinerary again!

Sailing on the gorgeous Sapphire Princess, we're sailing at a wonderful time - not too warm, not too cold - and will have a full day in charming Ketchikan! The rates are terrific, too:

Inside Staterooms from $749 per person, double occupancy!
Balcony Staterooms from $1449 per person, double occupancy!

You'll note I didn't put an Ocean View category above - that's because Princess is offering their wonderful "balcony bonanza" upgrade special! You'll pay for an Ocean View stateroom and sail in a Balcony stateroom! Triple and Quad occupancy is also available - call me for more specific rates - and because you're sailing with my group, you'll receive a nice shipboard credit for your stateroom as well!

Check out the itinerary:
1 Seattle, Washington -- Depart 4:00 p.m.
2 At Sea
3 Ketchikan, Alaska -- Arrive 6:30 a.m., Depart 4:00 p.m.
4 Tracy Arm Fjord, Alaska (Scenic Cruising) -- Arrive 6:00 a.m., Depart 10:00 a.m.
4 Juneau, Alaska - Arrive 2:00 p.m., Depart 10:00 p.m.
5 Skagway, Alaska -- Arrive 6:00 a.m., Depart 5:00 p.m.
6 At Sea
7 Victoria, British Columbia -- Arrive 7:00 p.m., Depart 11:59 p.m.
8 Seattle, Washington -- Arrive 7:00 a.m.

Air rates are in the mid- to high $200.00 range right now, so make your plans to support American tourism when you sail in Alaska! You'll find more information on this trip on my agency Web site, I hope you sail with us!

By land or sea, we're planning your next vacation at Travelation Online! Give us a call at 602-252-1140, or if you're outside the Metro Phoenix area codes of 602, 480 or 623 you can call toll-free at 1-888-751-2032. You can also reach me directly via e-mail at I look forward to hearing from you!