Next week marks the beginning of every traveler's least favorite time to fly: the holiday season. Between busy airports where human beings are on their absolute worst behavior to flight cancellations and delays, it's a stressful time to be on the move. Here are two things you can do now to get ready to go gracefully into the holiday travel fray — and ten of the notoriously worst airports and airlines this time of year to check against your itinerary, so you know what you're going to be in for on the biggest travel days.
For airports, Chicago Midway (MDW) fared the worst for flight delays at 24 percent, while Dallas Love Field (DAL) had the longest flight delays at an average of 94 minutes. By airline, Southwest fared the worst for flight delays at 23 percent, while it was a tie for the longest flight delays between budget carriers Envoy Air and Expressjet Airlines at an average of 69 minutes each (followed closely behind at 68 minutes for Hawaiian Air).
While an hour or an hour and a half delay might be expected this time of year — and may even give you much-needed time to stock up on last minute presents and snacks, or grab a drink at the bar — those minutes are crucial for anyone dreading a missed connecting flight.
To survive the holiday travel in style and with your sanity (and good manners) in tact, here are a few simple things you can do to prepare in advance for the stress of delays, cancellations, and crowds behaving badly:
Download entertainment to your devices
Favorite shows from Netflix, Amazon Video, and Hulu, podcasts, and books and magazines to your e-reader. Personal favorites include anything comedic or fantasy-oriented, avoiding anything too violent or adrenaline-pumping or political/dysfunctional family in nature. Current favorites include The Golden Compass trilogy, His Dark Materials prequel novel The Book of Dust by Phillip Pullman (which just got me through two raucous four-hour flights, with about a third of the book still to go), and the Masterpiece Theater costume-drama murder mystery series Grantchester, which involves an engaging star-crossed-lovers sub-plot for its man of the cloth turned detective. Those neck pillows every traveler loves to hate to love? Actually very handy put to use on a tray table or in your lap as a more comfortable way to prop up a heavy book or iPad.
Pack holistic stress relief and wellness
Two personal tried-and-true favorites are CBD oil lip balm and packets of yummy herbal tea — flight attendants and Starbucks employees are always happy to dole out free cups of hot water. Simple, yet powerful in their capacity to help me cope with travel stressors. Organic, whole food snacks like fruit, veggies, nuts and dark chocolate (versus all the processed crap they give you for free in-flight) also help me stay in a decent mood. Farmer's Fridge, whole foods vending machines found in all Chicago airports (O'Hare and Midway both made the list of worsts) and in Milwaukee, are a must-stop for BYO in-flight meals and snacks.
If you're looking to get some shuteye (and maybe a few snickers), we rounded up five ridiculous travel pillows.
What do you pack to stay sane and comfortable during travel? Tell us in the comments...