12 Smart Ways to Avoid Travel Issues This Holiday Season

The holiday season is always a chaotic time to travel and may be even more so in 2022.
Last updated Jan. 17, 2023 | By Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore | Edited By Michael Kurko
family quarrel in the car

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It’s no secret that traveling — both by air and by car — has been a headache in 2022.

A recent Bankrate survey found that 79% of people who have traveled outside of their immediate area for an overnight trip have had to deal with some travel-related issues.

The most common complaint was high prices (57% of people reported dealing with this), followed by long waits (29%), customer service issues (27%), and the like.

Since the holidays are a notoriously difficult time to travel any year, here are 12 tips to avoid travel issues as we approach the holiday season.

Earn rewards and travel more while spending less with these top travel credit cards.

Book flights as soon as possible

Blue Planet Studio/Adobe online flight booking website provide modish reservation system

According to flight experts, the time to start thinking about booking flights if you have to fly during the holidays is in the summer. If you still haven’t booked your holiday flights, do it as soon as possible.

Travel experts warn that pickings will be slim as the holidays approach, as many people already know where they’ll need to travel and book way in advance. With little to choose from, flight prices will likely keep climbing.

Be flexible with travel days

Viacheslav Yakobchuk/Adobe female grandchild and her granddaughter looking at the calendar

As the holidays rapidly approach and options for getting where you need to be dwindle, it’s in the best interest of travelers to be flexible with when they need to go.

This goes for flight times as well. If you’re not super picky about when exactly you land back in your local airport, you may be able to score some deals — even if it means getting on a redeye flight or one with a layover.

Book rental cars ahead of time

Studio Romantic/Adobe young woman buys a car in a car showroom

Over the past year or so, there has also been a shortage of rental cars, so if you’ll need to book a car once you arrive at your destination, do it as soon as possible.

Travel experts also warn that drivers should expect to pay more for their rentals this year due to that shortage.

Pro tip: You can save on gas by collecting rewards every time you fill up at the pump with one of these top credit cards for gas.

Fly out early

Idanupong/Adobe Person waiting in airport

The days right before Thanksgiving and Christmas are particularly bad ones for flying. Airports will be packed and flights may be much more expensive due to high demand.

If you’re able to fly out a few days early to avoid the rush (and maybe save some cash), it’s not a bad idea.

Roads also tend to be packed with traffic on these high travel days, so if you’re driving to your destination, avoiding the days right before the holidays may be wise as well.

Book on holidays

Song_about_summer/Adobe passenger waiting in airport departure terminal

Another smart money move is to see if it’s possible to fly on the actual holiday. Airports tend to be way less packed on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

If your holiday celebration happens to be on Christmas Eve, try booking a flight back home on Christmas.

However, the reverse is also true. Flights in the days following the holidays tend to be pricey.

Budget extra for hotels

Brocreative/Adobe boy and his mother playing together on a bed indoors

Travelers can expect to pay more for flights, rental cars, gas, and hotels this year.

A recent Bankrate survey found that nearly 80% of American adults planning to travel this year will alter their plans due to inflation — with many (26%) saying they would travel fewer days.

Even so, those hitting the road and planning to stay in hotels should budget extra this year. Many hotels are making up for lost time due to COVID-19 and unfortunately, that means higher bills for guests.

Use credit card points to book

Johnstocker/Adobe Woman in a coffee shop holding a credit card and looking at her phone

If you have a travel credit card or another sort of card with travel perks, you may be able to save when arranging travel and accommodations this year. Using things like credit card rewards, frequent flyer miles, and hotel points can save you a lot.

If you haven’t been traveling much over the past few years, as many haven’t due to the pandemic, now would be a great time to cash in some of those saved-up rewards.

Pro tip: Not sure what card is best for your travel needs? Check out these top travel credit cards.

Check cancellation policies

Andrey Popov/Adobe person's hand using laptop

If you’re going with the cheapest flight or hotel option, make sure you’re reading the fine print carefully.

With the travel industry still in recovery mode and the chaos of the holiday season, it may be worth it to pay a few extra bucks to get the package that allows for canceling or adjusting trips free of charge.

Often, the cheapest option for flights will be sans benefits like a carry-on bag, seat selection, and free cancellation. Keep this in mind while booking.

Buy trip insurance

smolaw11/Adobe travel Insurance concept

With the current climate in the industry, travel experts are encouraging people to consider buying insurance for trips this year.

It may seem like just another thing you don’t want to shell out cash for after booking an expensive flight or hotel stay. However, for just a few extra dollars, you can ensure you’ll get all your money back if you can’t travel at that time for any reason.

Pro tip: If you don’t want to pay extra for travel insurance, try booking your trip using one of these credit cards with travel insurance.

Avoid the busiest travel days

littlewolf1989/Adobe businessman sitting next to window reading news

For the sake of your wallet and your stress level, it’s probably best to avoid traveling on the highest traffic days. Around the holiday season, these tend to be the few days before Thanksgiving and Christmas.

As mentioned earlier, flights tend to be significantly more expensive during those days. But if you’re traveling by car, you could be dealing with a lot of headaches due to crowded roads.

If your schedule and plans allow it, getting where you need to go a few days before the holiday is a great strategy.

Pack smart

anekoho/Adobe family going to holiday on summer vacation before start from home

With the chaos of the holiday season, it may be wise to avoid checking a bag. In addition to saving on the bag charges, traveling with just a carry-on will ensure your luggage doesn’t get lost en route to your destination.

While we’d all love it if our checked bags were guaranteed to get to our destination with us, there are occasional hiccups.

The U.S. Department of Transportation reported that more than 1 million bags were mishandled by airlines between January and June 2022, a significant hike from the same time in 2021.

When it comes to holiday travel, packing smart can save you a lot of time and effort in the long run.

Account for inflation

Pcess609/Adobe tourist counting cash to spend during his luxury vacation

If you’re traveling during the holiday season, you should keep in mind that inflation is likely to impact many aspects of your trips.

A recent report from airline tracking app Hopper suggested that airfares around Thanksgiving will be up 22% from the same time in 2019, with an average of $350 per flight.

Some markets, like those flying out of and into major cities, can expect even bigger price hikes. Hotels, gifts, and food will likely be much pricier than the last time you traveled for the holidays as well.

Bottom line

Prostock-studio/Adobe family traveling with kid

Traveling over the holiday is always a bit chaotic (and expensive), but there are several smart money moves travelers can take to make for smoother sailing (or flying or driving).

The holiday season is a great time to review and take advantage of your travel credit cards and put your points and rewards to use. It could make budgeting for the festive trip a bit easier.

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Author Details

Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore is a seasoned freelance writer who also teaches writing courses at Rutgers University. She's based in Jersey City and enjoys travel, live music and, of course, spending quality time with her pup.