NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Friday, November 20, 2015, 4:51 PM
With this holiday season expected to be the busiest in years, experts chime in on what not to do if you’re traveling.
This holiday season promises to offer an unwanted gift — major gridlock for travelers.
A whopping 46.9 million Americans will venture 50 miles or more from home during the Thanksgiving holiday alone — the highest number of travelers seen since 2007, according to AAA.
With hordes of people hitting the roads or catching flights, navigating through the crowds and congestion could present a challenge.
Here are 10 of the biggest travel don’ts that experts advise you to avoid during your well-deserved time off:
1. Don’t fly late in the day
Experts say that opting for a morning flight will minimize the chances of dealing with delays or cancellations.
Air travel is hardly a breeze during the holidays — so pundits pursuade vacationers to take precautions in minimizing headache-inducing delays.
“Holiday season is also storm season, so get on that first flight out — if you go later in the day, you have an exponentially higher chance of being delayed or worse, your flight could be canceled,” said Pauline Frommer, co-president of Frommer Media, the company behind the Frommer’s travel guide books.
“Delays ripple through the system, so if you’re on the first flight of the day out, your plane has spent the night at the airport and you have a much better chance of getting where you’re going.”
2. Steer clear of connecting flights
Travel experts caution against booking connecting flights during the holidays, since there is a higher likelihood of missing flights or facing cancellations.
Many opt for connecting flights to cut costs — but experts say that holiday season is not the time to skimp on flights.
“Unless the savings are substantial, it’s not worth it to open yourself up to the higher risk of missed connections, flight delays and cancellations that you face when you book connecting flights,” said Christine Sarkis, senior editor of SmartTravel.com, an online traveling resource.
“Give yourself the gift of direct flights whenever possible, especially over the holidays when weather and crowds can cause more problems.”
3. Don’t cut it close at the airport
Factor in an additional hour at the airport since it will be overcrowded and filled with inexperienced flyers.
During the holiday season, airports are jam-packed with travelers, which can slow down the process — so factor in additional travel time.
“By giving yourself enough time to drop off checked bags, clear security and get to the gate, you’ll be buying yourself peace of mind,” Sarkis said.
She added that checking in online in advance will shave time off waiting in lines.
Airports also see throngs of inexperienced travelers, who may take their sweet time at security.
“Give yourself an extra hour to get through security, because the crowds will not only be huge, but will be filled with more clueless people than usual,” Frommer warned.
4. Ditch the wrapped gifts
Don’t bother packing wrapped gifts in your carry-on or checked luggage, because there is a good chance the TSA will tear them open.
If you’re airborne-bound, don’t try your luck at keeping your holiday gifts under wraps.
“TSA agents may unwrap items if they need to take a closer look at what’s inside. This is true for both carry-on and checked items,” Sarkis said.
“Instead, ship your wrapped presents ahead before you leave, or simply wait until you arrive to wrap them.”
5. If you’re driving, don’t wing it with traffic
Driving at dawn or late at night will lessen the chances of hitting bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Getting behind the wheel at peak traffic hours will almost guarantee you’ll confront bothersome bumper-to-bumper traffic.
“Some people start driving at midnight and arrive in the morning exhausted, but hit no traffic,” Frommer said.
“If you have the stamina for that, it can be a way to avoid frustration.”
She added that traffic apps are a must-have to help navigate through congestion.
“An app like Waze does real-time calculations of where the bottlenecks are so that you don’t get stuck in traffic,” Frommer said.
6. Don’t assume all hotels are exorbitantly priced
Some business hotels in large cities actually offer lower fares during the holidays — so do your research.
Hotel prices are likely to skyrocket during the holiday season — but not at all hotels.
“Often, people are surprised to find that in big business cities, hotel rooms are cheaper during the holidays,” Frommer said.
“If you’re going to a place that gets mostly business travelers, you may be able to go to one of those classic business hotels for as much as you’d pay at a motel.”
7. Don’t be careless with your hotel search engines
The sites that search for travel information, rather than sell you the room, generally yield better deals.
The travel search engines you use could be the difference between squandering hundreds of dollars and securing a penny-pinching deal.
“At Frommers.com we did a big study about which hotel search engines work best, and we found that those that just searched for travel information, rather than sell you the room, do much better,” Frommer said.
She said that Hotelscombined.com, a site that her company is not affilitated with, won the survey because it pulls from hotel websites and discounter sites to provide the best deals.
“It gives you a much broader look,” Frommer said.
8. Don’t dismiss alternative forms of accommodation
Booking accommodations on sites like Airbnb offers viable alternatives to hotels that are competitively priced and spacious.
Sites like Airbnb are dominating the lodging industry — mostly because of their competitive price points and vast inventory.
“Airbnb has more beds than all of the major hotel chains combined and it’s joined by such companies as Wimdu, Homeaway, VRBO, so think outside the hotel box if you’re looking for accommodations,” Frommer said.
“You can often get better deals by renting an entire apartment or renting a bed in someone’s apartment, than you will renting a hotel room.”
9. Don’t wait until the last minute to book travel
Experts advise against waiting until the last minute to book flights and accommodations — the longer you wait, the more likely that prices will soar.
Time really is money when it comes to holiday travel.
“This holiday season is shaping up to be a busy one, which means that planes will be flying full and last-minute seats will be both expensive and hard to come by,” Sarkis said.
Airline Reporting Corporation is a company that surveyed 26 million airfare transactions and found that for domestic travel, booking 51 days in advance will yield the best prices, according to Frommer.
“But that doesn’t necessarily hold for holiday travel, because it is one of the few times of the year when flights and hotels totally sell out, so make your reservations as soon as possible,” she said.
10. Don’t feel guilty about taking a break from family
Enjoy your time with family, but don’t shy away from taking some time away to recharge.
One out of four Americans report that the holiday season is the most stressful time of year since many reconvene with relatives, according to Frommer.
She suggested that it’s important to take a break in order to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
“Don’t feel guilty about taking a few hours away from the family bubble — maybe see an old friend, or take a jog. It’s okay if you need to get away for a bit,” Frommer said.
“Just have fun — how often do you get to see your family? Remember that it’s a blessing and try to enjoy yourself.”