Christmas Vacation Trips from a Travel Industry Insider

Even without a pandemic, vacation travel is not for the faint of heart.

Millions are expected to travel this month, with threats of volatile weather and the omicron variable adding pressure to people eager to shut down the second year of the pandemic.

To help travelers prepare, CNBC Travel asked industry insiders this question: What’s your strong advice for people traveling in December?

Travel planning tips

“Plan the arc of the trip. Think of a trip like a story that has a beginning, middle, and end. For example, plan for the best hotels at the end, and build to the end on a great note. Then to get in and out, plan routes that you can ensure it goes smoothly. Maybe transportation will be arranged. The special is after a long flight, so you don’t have to navigate the public transit system amid jet lag. Whatever hard arc looks like for you, plan ahead.”
Sarah Gruen, founder of the luxury travel company Travel Design Bell & Bly

“If you’re planning on doing some Greek island hopping, keep in mind that Greeks themselves tend to stick to one island rather than cramming as many of them as possible into one trip. Think objectively: Santorini has stunning views, but the beaches are better on Mykonos… [but] Islands like Tinos and Syros have great food and culture with much lower hotel rates than Mykonos. Crete has a lot of variety, but a car is essential.”
– Anthony Grant, American writer based in Greece

Holiday travel tips

“Choose early morning flights, which are usually less crowded. Avoid taking the last flight of the day whenever possible, particularly during the winter months to reduce the chances of transportation lost or delays due to cancellation or weather. … Choose carry-on baggage on your next flight. You’ll skip the lines when you arrive at the airport and you won’t have to wait for baggage when you land.”
– Anna Brown, Director of Public Relations at Expedia we

Pack a bunch of clothes in your handbag. Be prepared for the worst. … With the shortage of airlines and increased travel, there is an above-average chance of losing your luggage. Don’t travel with your gifts. … Consider sending shipping offers directly to the final address.”
—Mark Hoenig, co-founder of the digital travel company VIP traveler

VIP Traveler’s Mark Hoenig recommends avoiding connecting flights, even if that means driving and parking at an alternative airport. “Each additional airport increases the chances of baggage loss, delays and cancellations.”

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“Buy your tickets ASAP. As people postpone their international travel plans due to COVID concerns, domestic flights tend to become more crowded and expensive. To speed up security at the airport, don’t wrap gifts in case an inspection is needed.”
—Rajeev Shrivastava, CEO of Travel Insurance Market VisitorsCoverage.com

Tips for renting holiday homes

“Look for vacation rentals with the most flexible cancellation policies, so you can cancel your stay at the last minute for any reason.

Guesty’s Director of Operations Vered Schwarz recommends people looking to travel longer look for homes with large closets, washers and dryers, work spaces with comfortable chairs, good lighting, and fast Wi-Fi.

Stephen Simpson | stone | Getty Images

“Short-term hospitality brands are on major booking channels but also have their own direct booking sites. Booking stays directly with the brand usually at a reduced rate. Many of these… offer co-working spaces and digital concierge services. … are examples of These are the brands Casita, D Alexander and Sentral”.
—Vered Schwartz, COO of Vacation Home Rental Software Inc. my guest

Tips for family gatherings

For travel before Christmas: “I suggest traveling within the cabin of family and friends made up of those people you will be vacationing with. If you need to quarantine as soon as you get home for any reason, you will already be with the family members or friends you plan to vacation with.”
—Matt Berna, Managing Director of the North American Travel Company
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Harvard Research Fellow Stephen Kessler recommends keeping holiday meetings small and getting a quick Covid test right before the gathering.

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“Ventilation is still really important. I think this still has to be overlooked and underappreciated. With the holiday gatherings approaching, I’m definitely planning, no matter how cold it is outside, I’m going to crack the windows 4 to 6 inches… [and] Testing right before the assembly, ideally, an hour or two before, maybe in the morning, is what we should do.”
—Steven Kessler, research fellow at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in an online discussion in dec. 9 With Ilana Gordon from Public Radio Show “The World”

Tips for booking hotels

“A lot of the best hotels block online bookings in the height of the ‘festival’ season…and run them directly through their human team. It’s worth asking for help from your travel advisor as they often have the relationships to make the impossible happen when all seems to be OK Done .
– Henley Vazquez, co-founder of the travel company
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“Independent boutique hotels and locally owned businesses need love more than ever, since they don’t have the all-encompassing crowdfunding privilege to stay afloat. So, with this in mind and holiday spirit, give back to the destination you want to” re-visit by Making your vacation revolve around staying in these kinds of places and supporting local operators.”
—Brandon Berkson, founder of the travel company
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Tips for traveling with young children

“Plan some rest times for your kids and toddlers during vacation trips… Kids don’t always do well when they are on the go. Make sure you set aside some time each day to just sit back, relax, play games and interact with Kiddo.

Fran Mayer, CEO of BabyQuip, recommends keeping the same sleep routine for infants and toddlers while traveling. “If your child usually sleeps in a full-size bed, don’t try to cram him into Pack ‘n Play and expect him to sleep well.”

Oleksandra Korobova | moment | Getty Images

“Children need frequent breaks from people and planned activities to allow their minds to rush through creative play. Make sure you pack enough toys to keep kids occupied when preparing meals, engaging in adult conversation, or when they just need a break.”
—Fran Meyer, CEO of Baby Gear Rentals BabyQuip

Tips for renting a car

“Many car rental companies offer contactless delivery where you can walk into the parking lot and hop in your car. At Expedia, use the ‘skip counter’ filter to find these options and avoid waiting in another queue.”
—Anna Brown, Director of Public Relations, Expedia US

“When you book a rental car, book a ‘pay later’ rate… which gives you the flexibility to cancel and rebook if a better deal comes up. Rental rates can change multiple times a day. AutoSlash powers the system by constantly checking rates for your rental, letting you know if They found a lower price.”
—Jonathan Weinberg, CEO of Car Rental Price Tracking slash

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