The glittering lights, snow-covered trees and dangling mistletoe can only mean one thing -- the peak holiday travel season is upon us! While you're making your lists, and checking them twice, you really should be preparing for the traffic jams, flight delays and complete confusion that inevitably ensues this time of year.
As a present to you, we at IndependentTraveler.com have compiled a collection of the best travel tips (submitted by none other than our all-knowing readers) to ease your chaotic Christmas holiday and help your journey be as safe and smooth as possible. From lost luggage to packing problems, we've got a tip for you!
And if you have an airplane horror story, we want to hear it! Share your flight woes with us on our message boards!
1. "Before flying to a new city, I MapQuest strolls from my hotel to various sites. When I arrive at the new city, I head right out the door with confidence, with specific destinations in mind and how to get there. With a detailed map of neighborhoods, I also allow myself to go off the beaten path of tourism." -- Patricia Brock from Cleveland
2. "Compile a travel item list that is saved in your computer. This list has everything that you would ever need in any climate, country or trip length. Print out the list before packing and check off items as they are put in your luggage. It only takes 10 minutes to pack and I never forget anything." -- Charlie Atkins from Memphis
Check out our Packing Checklist.
3. "When booking travel online, call the airline to verify you have received the seats you requested. I just learned that I didn't get the seats I requested, and with a busy flight out, they separated all three people in my party. That just doesn't work when you are traveling with a small child." -- Chrystal Smart from San Diego
Check out our article Get the Best Seat.
4. "If traveling by air, always pack everything in clear plastic bags. Your bags will be opened and checked, sometimes several times. Anything loose may be lost. And most importantly, do not pre-wrap Christmas packages. They will be unwrapped by security, especially on international trips." -- Beth Christmas from Ohio
Check out our article At the Airport.
5. "Pack your cell phone charger in your carry-on bags. If you get snowed in or iced out of a destination for the night, you will be glad that you did." -- Emily from Kansas City
Check out our tips for Renting and Using a Cell Phone Abroad.
6. "Diabetics and people allergic to bees should remember to get a note from their doctor stating that they are carrying needles to give themselves injections when necessary." -- Tom Palucha from Rhode Island
Check out our Safety and Health Resource Page.
7. "Travel on the actual holiday, if possible. Lines are minimal, flights aren't fully booked, and airports are virtually empty. Also, book your return flight for an off-peak day such as Tuesday. It's much less stressful and makes for a much more enjoyable trip." -- Amanda from Tennessee
Check out our guide to Bumping.
8. "Be polite. It may seem simple, but the heavier travel gets and the more problems occur, the more the airline employees hate their jobs. In the worst of situations, take time to say please and thank you. Go even further by saying 'I appreciate this so much' or show empathy with an irritated airline worker by saying 'I do not know how you guys can take your jobs on days like these.' They spend all day hearing about passengers' problems and they appreciate people who understand it is painful for them also. I have gotten put to the top of waiting lists, upgraded and put on alternative flights while other passengers sit and scream at the person behind the counter." -- Jason from Fargo
Check out our article on Passengers' Rights.
9. "When using a booking site like Expedia or Travelocity, you revisit the site and get a higher price than the one you were originally quoted. Go to your Internet Options and delete your cookies. This will clear any record the booking engine has of your previous visits and you will often find that the price goes back to the original one you saw." -- Genevieve from New York City
Check out What's the Deal: Multi-City Flight Searches.
10. "For those that work out on a regular basis, I would highly recommend a very strong workout before you fly anything over four hours or an international flight. As an avid fitness buff, I took the advice of my trainer and he kicked my butt for two hours at the gym, and not only did it relax me, but it helped me sleep. Also, when you're flying, stretch like you are ready to run in a 5K race. Believe me, it helped like you wouldn't believe, and it also helps against the symptoms of jet lag." -- Chris from Connecticut
Check out our tips for avoiding
11. "For active senior citizens, if over 60 and especially over 70, it is important to check on the auto rental age rules for the countries you will be wanting to drive a rental. Your state of health doesn't seem to figure in some of the age limits. You may need to get information on how to mesh together train and bus connections." -- Nona Tyler
Check out our article on International Driving Permits.
12. "When traveling to major cities in the U.S., I always use the local hotel reservation services, like the Web sites Washington D.C. Accommodations, Express Reservations for New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles, as well as San Francisco Reservations. I can book a hotel in less than 10 minutes rather than searching generic mass-market search engines and not knowing the real deal with the hotel, neighborhood and public transportation logistics. I like talking with people who know the city -- not the hotel agents who are located in rural U.S. or even India." -- Nancy Riker from Washington D.C.
The Independent Traveler is an interactive traveler's exchange and comprehensive online travel guide for a community of travelers who enjoy the fun of planning their own trips and the adventure of independent travel. You can access our wealth of travel resources and great bargains here at , or at .