Waiting in long lines, sitting behind rambunctious kids, weeping over stolen luggage or camping out in dirty terminals with zero entertainment, traveling home for the holidays can be a nightmare. So why go? Because everybody--from your parents to your in-laws to your girls--wants to see you this holiday season. Believe it or not, you can travel without the hassle.
Wait in Comfort
You don't have to be a Black Card-carrying member or order a bottle of champagne to access the airport lounge. Many airports now have pay-per-visit "business class lounges" to calm frazzled nerves, get a snack, or check your Facebook page before take off.
Get Moving: Get the Priority Pass--a program that allows independent access to over 600 VIP airport lounges for as little as $99 per year or $27 per visit. Check out prioritypass.com
Get first class amenities for free, says Peter Greenberg, travel expert and author of 'Tough Times, Great Travels: The Travel Detective's Guide to Hidden Deals, Unadvertised Bargains, and Great Experiences' (Rodale). Pack your DVD player, mp3 player, snacks, a blanket, ear plugs, eye mask and a favorite book.
Get Moving: Pick up an F-1 First Class Kit, $75, at flight001.com. You'll find everything from candybars to inflatable pillows to comfy travel socks.
Speed Up Slow Security
According to Greenberg, if you order your items on the conveyor belt, you will get through security quicker and calmer: shoes and coat in the bin, followed by your carry-on bag and then your purse. This way, you can redress while waiting, and no one can grab your purse or wallet while you're busy putting on your shoes.
Get Moving: Zoom through security in 40 seconds with the scan of your finger! Click here to apply. The cost is $100.
Escape Long Travel Time
Get three vacations in one by choosing midpoint destinations as rest stops. Whatever your mode of transportation, it's a great idea to break up the trip. It could be mapping a route that includes odd-ball sights along the way, returning to a different city on the way home, or taking alternate transportation.
Get Moving: Check out resources like RoadTripAmerica.com and Rand McNally's guides for interesting routes. When flying, look into an open-jaw or multi-stop tickets. Those options are usually far cheaper than flying on multiple one-way tickets.
Delete the Baggage Drama: Carry It or Ship It
There are only two kinds of travel bags: carry on, and LOST, says Greenberg. "In eight years of not checking bags domestically, I save two and a half hours of my life every time." If you must travel heavy, shipping bags means door to door service: no dragging bags around the bus terminal, airport or train station, no standing around for hours after you arrive trying to locate your bag in a carousel, no lugging up and down stairs at a residence or hotel. Plus, you don't pay an airline to check (and potentially lose) the bags. They only place they end up is in your hotel room, waiting for you.
Get Moving: Get a price quote for luggage at FedEx.com. Just put in where and when you want the bags shipped, and the weight (use that bathroom scale you swore you'd break) , and see the range for same day to three day shipping. For example, a 50-pound bag, shipped two-day from Newark, NJ to Raleigh, NC is about $20.
Silence the Noise: Stay Busy
From the arguing couple boarding to the screaming kids next to you, to the excessive snoring man behind you--nothing ruins a trip faster than the absence of quiet. To bring you peace of mind, try games to occupy yourself or the little ones, or tune everyone out entirely with noise-cancelling headphones.
Get Moving: Though noise-cancelling headphones can be pricey, you can find great deals in the $30-50 range on amazon.com. To keep the kids busy in the car, Nick on the Go, for $9.99, comes preloaded with more than 40 hours of Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. programming. This portable unit with touch screen can be enjoyed in a Hertz rental or anywhere. Be sure to select Nick on the Go, located in the Extras section, when making your reservation. Restrictions and other locations apply. Offer expires December 31, 2009. Visit www.hertz.com or call 1-800-654-3131.