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By William Atkins

I’ve traveled internationally on the busiest travel days imaginable. At Miami International Airport just before Christmas 2013 there was a security line to enter the gate area in Terminal D that took 2 ½ hours to clear. I had flown into Miami from Chicago on an early morning flight that arrived the recommended two hours before my flight to Barbados. I missed the flight and had to spend the night in a Miami hotel. I caught a flight the next day. The domino effect of the delay was that I missed an important family celebration and it cast a cloud over my entire trip. So, if you must travel during a busy holiday period, like the run up to Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year, here are a few holiday travel “hacks” that could help ease the stress and up the fun.

Take the earliest possible flight from your point origin, even if that means you have a much longer layover. This gives you maximum opportunity to arrive at your destination the day you planned. We all have examples of cancelled flights, mechanical or weather delays, and airline shenanigans (i.e. unexplainable actions taken by the airlines which are always in their best interest and result in passenger delays). Avoid all of this and get out early.

Travel on the day of the holiday if you can. Traveling on Christmas Day, New Year’s Day or any other holiday is much less stressful and often cheaper. The airports will be at 50% capacity versus 150% the days before and after the holiday.

Domestic Travel – Join TSA Pre-Check (click here to apply)

TSA Pre-check is available at over 200 U.S. airports. There are over 5 million travelers taking advantage of a service that has a special Pre-Check line, that allows you to leave your shoes on and electronics in your carryon. In November 2017, 93% of TSA Pre-check passengers waited less than 5 minutes. Enrollment in the program begins online and requires an in-person interview along with fingerprints. Never wait in long holiday travel lines at the airport. Join now!

International Travel –  Join Global Entry (click here to apply)

U.S. Customs and Border Protection offers U.S. citizens who travel internationally easy entry back into the U.S. if they are members of their Trusted Traveler Program. All applicants undergo a rigorous background check and in-person interview. Once approved, you can skip the normal customs line and follow signs to Global Entry where a dedicated customs agent will whisk you through the entry process.

U.S. Department of State – Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (click here to apply)

International travelers are more worried than ever about their safety and security. The world has definitely become a more dangerous place. It is more important than ever to avoid risky countries, cities and territories. This program registers your travel itinerary with the State Department so they can notify you directly if things go wrong along your route.

Smart Luggage Alert – “I’m sorry you can’t check that bag with the built-in battery”, Merry Christmas from the airlines. The brilliance of combining mobile charging technology with your luggage just met the reality of lithium batteries and flying. “Smart Luggage”, bags & hard-siders with built-in batteries, will eventually be restricted to carry-ons that are less than 22 inches. American Airlines has just announced that starting on January 15, 2018 (and other airlines are considering the same) they will not allow Smart Luggage that includes built in batteries to be placed in the baggage compartment. If you can remove the batteries you can put them in your carry-on. The theory is that any fire that erupts from the battery in the cabin can be put out easily.

Happy Holidays from all of us at Triptime® Insurance and Point Comfort Underwriters, Inc.