This post first appeared in December 2020. The travel landscape has changed since then, and so too have these holiday travel tips. This 2021 version of holiday travel DOs and DON’Ts if full of tips to ensure a holly, jolly (drama-free) travel experience this year. Hope you enjoy.
Happy Holidays everyone!
It’s about that time. The lights are up, the sales are on, and Netflix is chock-full of cheesy, comforting Christmas-movie goodness. Many of you will be traveling to see loved ones in the upcoming weeks. That means planes, trains, and automobiles. Since I’m a flight attendant and not a train conductor, I’ll be focusing on air travel in this post, giving you the best holiday travel tips for 2021. Specifically, the DOs and DON’Ts of holiday travel.
The holiday season is a wild time in air travel. We see peak numbers of travelers, added flights to get people to where they need to be, and winter weather throwing in more curveballs than we’d like. If you get a little stressed traveling during the holidays, you are not alone.
I’ve put together a list of Dos and Don’ts for travel this holiday season. Little tips to get you prepared and ensure your holiday travel goes as smoothly as possible this year- Merry and bright, amirite?
Read on to find the Top DOs and DON’Ts of Holiday Travel: 2021 Edition.
THE DOS AND DON’TS OF HOLIDAY TRAVEL
BEFORE YOU FLY
DO stay home if you’re feeling unwell. Sniffles, sneezing, fever and aches are all signs you’re not safe to fly. Take a COVID test, whether you’re vaxxed or not, and feel more secure that you’re not spreading the virus to other passengers, your sweet and unsuspecting flight attendants, or your loved ones.
DON’T assume that your negative test is a sure bet. You could have contracted COVID when you went grocery shopping after your test. Or you could have been tested too soon within the incubation period. You could have caught it the following day. I’m not saying this to scare you, only to emphasize that regardless of test results, we still must follow best practices. Masks, handwashing, and social distancing. Minimize risk as best you can.
DO read the airline’s policies in advance. COVID precautions, pet fees, bag fees, change fees, standby options, and choosing your seat are all things that will affect your flight and traveling experience this holiday season. Holiday travel can be stressful, make it less so by being prepared with the knowledge you need.
DON’T take it out on the flight attendants or gate agents when you are unable to move seats or get a free upgrade. Most airlines allow passengers to choose their own seats, though some charge a fee to do so. The holidays are a busy travel time. DO NOT assume you will be able to choose the lowest fair and simply change your seats at the airport. If you’d like to guarantee your party members sit together, please do yourselves a favor and book accordingly.
DO book direct flights if possible. It might cost you a little extra, but it will save you headaches in the long run. Not to mention hours of your life. Mo’ flights mo’ problems, as they say. The more flight segments you sign up for, the more likely you are to encounter a delay, cancellation, or some other type of holiday travel shenanigan.
If you are going to book a flight with a connection…
DON’T book flights with connection times of less than one hour (domestic) and two hours (international). If you have to change terminals, add another at least 30 minutes to these times.
Holiday travel happens in the same time of year as blizzards and Nor’easters. Weather delays are common in the wintertime, as are long waits for de-icing before takeoff. It’s nothing to gripe about, because safety comes first, but it is something to plan for.
Sometimes when you book on a third-party site like Kayak or Priceline, they give you lowest price options with unrealistic turn times in between flights. No shade to getting a deal, but ensure that you have enough wiggle room to account for de-icing, weather, and mechanical delays
EAT, DRINK, & BE MERRY
DO bring food. One of the most important holiday travel tips in my book!
There are still some airports where very few food options exist. Whether they are closed entirely or have abridged hours, some restaurants have not fully come back to pre-pandemic operations.
As mentioned above, winter is upon us and with that comes weather, ice, and delays. Make sure you have snacks in case you get stuck in the airport or on the plane for longer than anticipated. If your flight is long enough to warrant eating a meal, do yourself a favor and bring one. If you have food allergies or dietary restrictions—you know the drill. Bring it.
You must comply with liquid rules, meaning no more than 3oz size, which must fit into a small ziplock bag. Food items like hummus, yogurt, pudding will all count as liquds, so skip bringing those. You can, however, bring fruit, chips, salads, granola bars, and as many sandwiches as you like.
Don’t let hanger ruin your holiday travel experience. Pack accordingly.
DON’T bring fish. It stinks. Don’t bring broccoli. It stinks. Don’t bring excessively smelly food of any kind. This is also not a holiday travel DON’T, but a general, all-the-time travel DON’T.
DO have yourself a very merry glass of bubbles or a warm and toasty hot toddy when you arrive at the airport early.
DON’T get drunk in the airport and expect to make it on your flight. Legally, we are not permitted to transport drunk people. We don’t want to ruin your day, but we REALLY don’t want to have an alcohol-related safety or security incident on our flight. That would ruin everyone’s day.
When you consider ordering that last drink in the terminal bar, consider also how embarrassing it will be if your family finds out “getting hammered in the airport” is the reason you missed Christmas. Yikes.
Thank me for this holiday travel tip later!
DON’T BYOB. The days of bringing your own alcohol on the airplane are over. The FAA has become stricter over the past two years because of the increase in incidents of alcohol-related disturbances. Now, you’ll have to order alcoholic beverages from the flight attendants if you’d like to have a cup of cheer on board.
ON THE PLANE
DO wear your mask. How long have we been doing this? And people are still pretending they don’t know the rules. You agree to wear a mask several times while booking your flight online, as well as at check-in. There are reminders blaring on the loudspeakers, by gate agents, and on written signage throughout the airport. Just do it. You can take it off when you arrive and leave the airport.
DON’T fight your flight attendants on the mask policy. It was not created by us, we are merely the enforcers doing our job. If you really had a problem with wearing a mask, you would have hired a private jet or rented a car. This is not a moral stance you’re taking. Fighting about masks only makes you look like a child throwing a tantrum.
DO speak up, loudly and clearly, to place your beverage and snack order. Planes are loud and we have masks on. Just project a liiiiiiittle extra so we don’t have to play the “What?” game in the aisle.
DON’T pull your mask down to order. I know it is difficult to communicate sometimes, but we’ve got to stay as safe as possible. Keep your mask on, and instead try speaking louder. And while we’re on the topic of ‘in the aisle’…
DO have your beverage order ready by the time we get to your row. Also, have your snack selection ready. There will be a seatback card or several announcements with the offerings for the day. Thanks so much for your attention and saving me from repeating the same options 300 times!
DON’T prolong your flight attendant’s time in the aisle. Speaking loudly and clearly, listening for your options, and having your order ready in advance are all ways to make our interactions go more smoothly and quickly. Every moment we flight attendants are in the aisle, surrounded by you and your fellow travelers, we are putting ourselves at risk. We go home and put our families at risk. Being essential workers, we do not have the option of working from the safety of our homes, so we must do what we can to stay safe at work. Making these interactions brief and our time in the aisle shorter helps to reduce our risk and keep us safer. Thank you for understanding and I promise we will get back to being chatty once it is safe to do so! <3
DO treat people how you’d like to be treated. DO treat people how you’d like for your family members to be treated. If a flight attendant forgets your beverage, simply inform them of this and ask again. If someone forgets to pull their mask up, just kindly ask them to do so. If there is a delay you’re frustrated about, ask the flight attendant or gate agent, and then try your best to accept the answer given. Also know that we often don’t have any more information than any of you. It is difficult, to say the least. Keep in mind that we are somebody’s daughter or son, mother or father or auntie, we have families of our own, and we are humans. Please treat us, and talk to us, as such.
DON’T—and I can’t believe I have to say this—DON’T hit, yell at, or verbally abuse anyone. Keep your hands to yourself and keep your volume to a polite indoor level. Unless you want to skip the flight and spend the night in police custody instead.
GIVING: GIFTS & THANKS
DO bring us gifts. Okay, I’m not asking for the world, just a little chocolate.
Every now and again, customers, out of the goodness of their hearts, bring their flight attendants little tokens of appreciation. This is usually in the form of sugar, à la chocolat, but can sometimes be other things, like gift cards or a nice face mask. It is by no means required. But when it does happen, especially around the holidays, we appreciate it SO much.
Use this holiday travel tip any time of year, and see if you don’t get five-star treatment from some very happy FAs.
Want to bring your flight attendants a little thank you gift, but not sure what to get? Check out these recommendations: Make Your Flight Attendant’s Nice List With These Top 5 Gifts
DON’T bring us gifts that could get us fired. No alcohol-filled chocolates. No CBD infused anything. No insider trading tips. Keep it Kosher.
DO thank us for working the holidays so that you can travel to see your loved ones. Flight attendants and pilots—like so many other essential workers—miss out on holidays with family. It is the nature of the beast, a deal we agree to before we start this crazy, exciting life. And most of us would never give it up. But still, on those holidays that we are far from home and feeling lonely, a small kindness, as simple as a thank you, can make all the difference in the world.
DON’T say “I can’t believe they make you work the holidays!” Funny thing about supply and demand—if you weren’t here saying this cutesy, Podunk statement, I wouldn’t be working. We all have our part to play. Let’s just have a safe and pleasant time doing it.
And those are the top holiday travel tips for 2021. Follow these holiday travel DOs and DON’Ts to ensure that your travel is as safe, healthy, and pleasant as possible. Flight Attendant readers—what are YOUR best holiday travel tips?
Now, I realize that not everyone will be traveling to see family this year. Some of you are flight attendants who will be at work. Some of you are regular folx who will be away working. And some of you can’t make the trip because of obligations, finances, or health reasons. If you’ll be far away from family this year, then please check out my post Homesick For The Holidays? 7 Ways To Make It Suck Less. In it you’ll find tips for how to deal with missing family during the holidays—whether you’re a flight attendant on a trip, or a regular person stuck home with the flu. It’s tough to miss them, but it doesn’t have to suck so much.
AND If you are still searching for the perfect gift for the traveler in your life, be sure to check out our 2021 Gift Guide. Each must-have item is flight-attendant approved and will be sure to make your frequent flyer’s (holi)day!
Have yourself a very merry ride and a safe and happy holiday season.