By Daniela Harrison
No matter if you prefer to head into the snow or far away from it, anyone can use a little break time in the winter.
Obviously, the first decision you have to make once you decide you want a getaway is to decide the direction you’re heading. After that, you can use some easy tools to check for special deals. Apps like SkyScanner, TravelAdviser, TripIt, and PocketTravelConsultant are a great place to start, but if you really want to save on time and hassle, contact your local travel consultant. We usually have an array of specials and can make sure that you’re getting the right deal you’re getting is right for you.
Remember: Not every deal is a good deal! When looking for holiday travel specials, read the fine print. A lot of last-minute deals have to be paid in full and are non-refundable. Not all resorts/cruises are the right choice for families with children, or couples without children. And don’t forget the logistics; if a flight to Europe requires you to switch from Heathrow to Gatwick between connecting flights, you might want to look at a different option.
Make sure all passports are up-to-date. For most destinations, passports must be valid for at least six months from your return-home date. If you’re traveling before the end of the year, you’ll have to expedite your renewals (not cheap or fun) to get them back in time.
Stop or forward your mail/newspaper deliveries while you’re gone. More so than any other season, winter is a time when you don’t want to leave obvious signs that you’re not home. If you expect snow, have your driveway plowed while you’re away. Set lights on a timer (including Christmas lights). Turn down your thermostat, but not drastically. Make sure your water pipes are wrapped with heat tape. Get a neighbor to keep an eye on your home.
Cover your investment. Talk to your travel consultant about the right type of travel insurance for your trip. A quick getaway may only require flight protection; a full-blown vacation needs more coverage.
Monitor the weather. Winter weather can influence your travels, even if you’re heading to the Caribbean or South America. It could mean longer travel times to your local airport, or even a pre-departure night at the airport.
Add a pre-departure stay. Your plane could be delayed, depending on its origin. If your flight to the Bahamas has to stop in Chicago because of a snowstorm, chances are your flight will be delayed. Especially when embarking on a cruise, I highly recommend adding a pre-departure night to your trip, just in case of snow delays. (Travel insurance can also be a lifesaver in these situations. Depending on the policy you purchase, delays on the way to the airport are covered, as well as flight delays and flight cancellations.)
Take care of your immune system. Traveling is always stressful on the body, but especially when switching through various climates. Stack up on eye drops, nose sprays, cough drops, cold medication, tissues and more, and then make sure you have some travel-sized items you can fit into your carryon. Should you lose the battle with that tickle in your throat, make sure to contact your travel-insurance carrier to help arrange a doctor’s visit so you’re back on your feet in no time.
Pack for success. Luggage fees can add up. Winter clothes are bulky and take up lots of space. Pack efficiently. Does your resort/cruise ship offer laundry service? Find out ahead of time, and you might be able to leave a few sweaters at home. Services like LuggageFree will transport your heavy suitcase from your home to your hotel room and back. This service is especially great for odd-size items like skis, diving gear, and musical instruments.
Reserve ahead. If you’re traveling over the holidays, remember to make dinner reservations in advance. Not all restaurants will be open on the actual holidays and you want to make sure to have a table waiting for you, especially if you have dietary restrictions and allergies. Many restaurants will serve set menus; you might want to review these ahead of time.
Make sure your mode of transportation can bear the weather. If you get a rental car, check for antifreeze, snow chains, ice scrapers and all that fun winter-weather stuff. Just because it’s sunny when you pick up the car doesn’t mean the weather can’t change on you. This is especially true if you pick up a car in, say, Denver or Salt Lake City and then drive to the mountains.
Install the weather.com app on your phone. I add all the cities I’m traveling through and track the weather a few days ahead of time so see what to pack. Knowing the weather also helps me plan my daily routine while traveling. This way I know if I want to get up early to start exploring, or if I want to sleep in and let the plow trucks clear the roads first. When heading to the tropics, I install destination guides with daily event calendars to be in the know on festivals, celebrations and more. (Editor’s Note: We especially like the guides from Gogobot and — if you’re headed to Europe — Spotted by Locals, but it’s a good idea to download multiple apps and see what works best for you.)
Do keep in mind that certain attractions might be closed on actual holidays. Check closures ahead of time and plan your itinerary accordingly. Your travel consultant can help you maximize your time to get the most out of your vacation.
Wherever you’re heading this winter, I hope you’ll be with your loved ones and have the time of your lives. Wishing you all safe travels!
Daniela has been a travel consultant since June 2010. She works for Avenues of the World Travel in Flagstaff, Ariz. For more information please contact Daniela at 800-230.3322 or email Daniela@avenuesoftheworld.com.