1. Avoid peak travel dates.
Both Christmas and New Year's Day fall on Sundays this year (updated for 2016), so travel will peak a couple of days before and afeter the weekends. People will make long weekends out of their trips. Plan accordingly if possible.
2. Book early.
Haven't booked your holiday travel yet? It's time to stop procrastinating and get to that booking. Fares are only rising as Christmas approaches, so those who hold out in hopes of a late-breaking sale are likely to get left out in the cold or pay a very steep price for their procrastination.
3. Shop around.
Whether you're using travel-booking sites like Expedia, Priceline or some other site, comparison shopping has never been easier than it is now.
During the holidays, price isn’t the only or even the most important factor for many travelers. Thoughtful use of the "search adjacent days or airports" features found on many websites may also give greatly improved fares and travel times.
4. Know your airports.
Checking alternate airports is a pretty standard tactic, but at this time of year it can really make a difference. At no time can the alternate airline wars pay off better than during the holiday crush. You can score on almost every front -- parking, rental cars, traffic to and from, nearby hotels -- and save both time and money.
Keep in mind that smaller airports see fewer flights and, typically, fewer delays -- not a minor consideration during the busy holiday travel season.
5. Plot connections carefully.
When booking flights, check your search results carefully for sufficient time during layovers, and build in some time for flight delays and weather woes. Particularly during the winter months, peak travel times often bring peak travel delays, and your connection is more likely to be jeopardized. Avoiding really tight connections may save you a sprint through the terminal or a missed flight.
6. Leave early.
During peak travel times, much of the trouble you'll face lies on this side of the security check-in, from traffic jams and full parking lots to absent shuttles and long lines. Leave for the airport early to anticipate any and all minor delays you may encounter.
7. Pack wisely.
A recommended strategy it to fit everything into your carry-on without having to check any baggage. However, the TSA rules about liquids and gels make this a trickier proposition. For the record, you may bring liquids and gels in 3.4-ounce or smaller containers, packed within a single, quart-size, zip-top, clear plastic bag. You're also allowed to bring any liquids (such as coffee or water) or gels purchased after you go through a security checkpoint onto your plane with you. If you want to bring more than the 3.4-ounce amount, you'll have to pack the items in your checked luggage.
8. Use the Web for more than just booking.
The latest self-service developments in online travel can be tremendous time-savers during peak travel times. Whenever possible, print your boarding passes at home, use check-in kiosks or even pull up your boarding pass on your smartphone.
Think about doing your holiday shopping online and having your gifts shipped to your destination. This will cut down on luggage and the risk of them getting lost.
9. Travel early or late in the day.
As a rule, airports are least congested at times when normal human beings would rather be at home or even asleep. Delays are far less likely for morning flights, and airports usually unclog as the afternoon and evening peak passes.
10. Consider package deals.
Peak travel periods can be the best time to buy package deals, even for folks who would never buy one, as the bundled pricing offered by packages can be very competitive, even (or especially) at times of high demand.
A Few Bonus Tips
Be prepared for more than the usual slowdowns at security. See our TSA-friendly carry on luggage. Our bag collection allows you to get through TSA checkpoints hassle free! TSA friendly backpacks can be found on our laptop backpacks page.
Gas up the night before you travel; no one leaves enough time for buying gas on the way to the airport.
Investigate your frequent flier options to get better (and better guaranteed) seats.
Keep your cool. Airline employees have considerable power over your well-being. Unfortunately, many enjoy wielding it against you, and few respond well to anger.
Have phone numbers for everything: your hotel, your car rental agency, your airline, friends at your destination.
Choose nonstop flights. The worst, most brutal delays occur in connecting airports, where you have no home, friends or family to retreat to.
With airlines continuing to cut back on service, it's more important than ever to confirm your flight several days before you leave -- that way you'll have a little leeway to make alternate plans if necessary.
Don't over pack even checked luggage; overstuffed bags that must be opened for a security check are much harder to repack.
Do not wrap gifts, especially if you intend to carry them on the plane. Even in checked baggage, there is a strong chance they will be unwrapped for inspection by security personnel. Consider gift bags instead of wrapping paper this holiday season -- you can easily remove the items from their bags if required and you don't have to do a last-minute wrapping job at your destination.
Give your cell phone and or portable chargers a full charge, and write down or program the phone number of your airline so you can call easily as your flight time approaches.
If you're leaving pets at home and you haven't made kennel reservations, do so right away.
Put It All Together
Travel during the holidays is the time to lay all your travel savvy on the line. For example, if you:
- purchase a package deal in one click of the mouse
- print out your boarding pass at home
- leave early enough not to sweat the small stuff
- travel light enough not to have to check any bags
- proceed directly to and through security
- arrive at the gate on time and at ease
- and nail your connections ...
... you might actually enjoy traveling this season!
Referenced from Ed Hewitt’s 10 Tips for Holiday Travel