Your Senior Holiday Travel ChecklistYour Senior Holiday Travel Checklist

Fall just arrived, but Thanksgiving and Christmas will be here soon. If you’re traveling this holiday season, plan now for pet-sitting, air travel, and getting your gifts safely to your destination. You’ll enjoy your travels more if everything’s squared away well before the last minute. Here are some tips to keep your trip on track.

Book your trip and prepare for the airport obstacle course

If you’re flying, the time to book your ticket is now. Travel experts say the window for deals is closed, so find a fare that’s tolerable and a route that gives you wiggle room for connections in case of weather delays. Airlines now have fees for virtually everything—priority boarding, extra legroom, checked bags—so make sure you understand what your fare is getting you—and what you may need to buy a la carte. If you need help at the airport like check-in guidance, a wheelchair or expedited security, call the airline and request these services when you book your trip.  

Then give yourself a big reminder to check in online 24 hours before your flight is scheduled to depart. The earlier you do this, the less likely you are to be bumped if the flight is overbooked, and the more likely you are to get a seat you prefer (although that may cost you).

If you really want to breeze through security, it may be worth the time and $85 to enroll in the TSA Pre-Check program. If you decide to go that route, do it soon—it takes 2 to 3 weeks to get your Known Traveler Number after you apply and have your in-person appointment.

Pick your petsitter now

When your travel dates are set, call your petsitter, because sitters’ holiday schedules fill up fast. Be sure to let your veterinarian know your pets will be under a sitter’s care while you’re gone; he or she may ask you to sign a release form to authorize treatment if Fifi or Fido fall ill while you’re away. If your pet takes meds, make sure there are enough to last until you return.

Send gifts ahead to your destination

Arriving with an armload of gifts is a great way to make an entrance, but so is arriving rested and relaxed. Our advice: If you’re flying, ship your gifts with a carrier like UPS or shop online and have the seller wrap and deliver your purchases directly to your destination.

Why? Checked bags now cost at least $50 round-trip on most airlines, and each extra bag costs even more (up to $300), so shipping even large gifts may be more cost-effective than flying with them. If you must fly with gifts, wrap them at your destination so they’ll look their best, and remember that some items (containers of liquids and gels over 3 ounces, large sporting equipment, toy weapons) must be checked and cannot be carried on.

Staying healthy on the road and in the air

Sanitizing hand wipes and travel-size gels are handy for when you can’t wash your hands. Bring enough of your prescription and other medications to last your whole trip, plus a possible day or two of delay. Get vaccinations for the flu and pneumococcal disease before you travel. If you’re visiting relatives with a baby, ask your doctor if you need a whooping cough booster to protect the little one. And remember to drink plenty of water en route so you’ll feel refreshed and ready to celebrate when you get to your holiday destination.

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelance writer whose childhood was made awesome by her grandmothers, great-grandmother, great-aunts and -uncles, and their friends.

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