Don’t wake up to a holiday travel nightmare. Although you can’t control everything when you travel, there are steps you can take to help ensure your trip goes smoothly. Plan ahead, be prepared and learn to handle unpleasant surprises.

Stress is the underlying cause of most holiday travel nightmares. Between all the shopping, scheduling and packing, many of us become anxious when we head home for the holidays. Small but important details can slip through the cracks because you’re in a rush, or you may make a bad decision because your thoughts are too scattered.

At Scambook, we know how crooks take advantage of stressed-out consumers and prey upon their clouded judgment. You’re more vulnerable when you’re distracted. Plus, you’re less likely to enjoy your time off with your loved ones.

So educate and protect yourself! Use these helpful tips to stay in control and avoid a holiday travel nightmare. We’ve divided our 12 tips into suitcase packing secrets, tips for the road, and how to have the best airport experience if you fly during the 2012 holiday season.


Tips for Packing Your Suitcase

1. Make a checklist.What’s the weather like where you’re going? How long are you

Creating a checklist before you pack will help you figure out what you can leave behind.

staying? Will you have access to a laundry facility? Consider these points and make a checklist of everything you and your family will need. A list will help you decide what’s essential and what you can leave behind.

Here’s a link to a cool interactive packing list that we use here at Scambook for our business trips. Enter in your dates, suitcase size, and mode of transportation for a customized list. It even takes into account weather data. Copy and paste this link  into your browser:

2. Mail your gifts ahead. If you have limited car space or you’re flying, it may be easier (and cheaper) to ship presents to your destination in the mail.

If you’re flying and you decide to bring your gifts in your suitcase anyway, don’t wrap them. Wrapped gifts aren’t technically prohibited by the TSA, but officials may need to unwrap them if security decides to examine your bag.

3. Get your documents in order. Organize your tickets, maps, official IDs, and any other important documents you’ll need before you travel. Make copies to store in a safe place at home and keep the originals close at hand in a secure wallet or folder. You should also send your itinerary (including flight numbers and estimated arrival time) to whomever you’re meeting.


Tips for Driving Long Distance

If you’re bringing a lot of holiday gifts, consider shipping them in the mail to save space. Don’t forget to bring an emergency kit for the road.

1. Get car maintenance done before you leave. If you’re overdue for a tune-up, oil change, new tires or any other automotive maintenance, go to a mechanic you trust before you hit the road. You don’t want your car to break down along the highway if you can help it. An unfamiliar mechanic can easily overcharge if there’s no one else around.

2. Use real maps or print your own. Getting lost is always stressful, but it’s even worse if you’re worried about being late for Christmas Eve dinner. Although it’s great to plan your route with your GPS or smart phone, pack a real map (or print your own) in case you end up losing satellite reception.

Remember, it’s better to pull over and spend a few minutes with your map (or ask a gas station attendant for directions) than continue driving and get more lost.

3. Pack an emergency kit. Remember to pack a first-aid kit, jumper cables, road flares, a flashlight, a blanket, bottled water, food and anything else you might need in case there’s an emergency. Even if you don’t need to use them, it will give you greater peace of mind to know you’re prepared.


Tips for Flying and Airports

1. Know the TSA’s rules. Don’t bring any prohibited items that could hold you up during security. Remember the 3-1-1 rule: all carry-on liquids and gels need to be 3 ounces or smaller, stored in a 1 quart bag, only 1 bag per passenger. has a full list of travel restrictions as well as a smart phone app you can download. If you have a disability or medical condition that may affect your flight, call the TSA Cares Hotline 72 hours before your schedule flight at 1-855-787-2227.

2. Research your airline. Visit your airline’s website and read up on their policies. What’s the check-in procedure? Are you covered if they lose or delay your luggage? What happens if your flight is delayed or cancelled? Be prepared for the worst. Know your rights as a passenger. Sites like and offer quick, convenient breakdowns of different airlines’ rules and contracts.

3. And if your flight gets cancelled, call. Program the airline’s customer service number into your cell phone. If your flight gets cancelled, the customer service kiosk will be swamped with passengers trying to get on another flight. Skip the long line and book over the phone.

If you followed Tip #2 and you know the rules of your airline, you’ll know if you’re eligible for Rule 240 — that means the airline is required to book you on the next available flight to your destination, even if it’s a seat on a different airline.

4. Use smart phone apps. If you’ve got an iPhone or Android device, use it! There are a number of mobile apps designed just for flyers to help you navigate your way around the terminal and check if your flight is on schedule. Travel + Leisure Magazine recommends GateGuru (free for Android and iPhone) and FlightBoard ($3.99 for Android and iPhone). You can also use your phone’s mobile browser to view the airline’s website.

The holiday season is the busiest time for airports. Use iPhone or Android smart phone apps to help you navigate the terminal and add the airline’s customer service phone number to your contacts. If your flight gets cancelled, it’s often faster to reschedule over the phone instead of waiting in line.

5. Protect yourself against identity theft. Any crowded public place is attractive to scammers, but airports are especially appealing because travelers carry valuable identification they wouldn’t normally have on them. Many of these documents, like passports, contain digital RFID chips that can be remotely scanned by identity thieves. Protect yourself with an RFID-blocking wallet or passport case.

Also, if you use the airport’s WiFi to connect to the internet, don’t do any online banking or shopping. Hackers can potentially steal your financial info over the network.

6. Get picked up at departure. If you’re being picked up by a friend or family member, ask them to meet you at the departure terminal. There’s usually less traffic at departures than arrivals. Even if you’re waiting for a checked bag, you’ll save time because the driver can get to you more quickly.


Have You Survived a Holiday Travel Nightmare?

What are your travel tips? If you’ve survived a holiday travel nightmare, we want to hear about it! Share your story in the comments and tell us what happened.

Click here to watch a video about our own Holiday Travel Nightmare on Southwest Airlines.


See Also

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Airfare Prices & How to Fly Cheaper
Student Travel Safety Tips for a Scam-free Spring Break 2013
Back From Sabbatical: Phony Airline Phishing Scam Resurfaces

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About The Author

Miranda Perry is the staff writer for, where she blogs about consumer issues, fraud and cyber security. She hopes to inspire readers to think critically about the world around them and take action to improve their lives.

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