Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial kickoff to summer, is upon us, and it's projected to be another busy one on the road and in the air.
AAA Travel projects 41.5 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Memorial Day holiday weekend, a nearly 5 percent increase over last year.
Air travel over the holiday weekend is expected to increase by 6.8 percent to 3.1 million leisure travelers.
Of course, more people traveling equates to busier airports and airport parking lots. Here are a few tips to help you have a sane, hassle-free holiday weekend.
Prep the night before
Make your travel day less stressful by doing as much as you can at home in advance.
Ideally, everything except toiletries, medication and cell phones/chargers should be in your suitcase, packed and ready to go the night before.
Lay out the clothing you plan to wear to the airport (including shoes that are easy to slip off and on in the TSA line), set the coffee and prepare your breakfast/lunch/snack. Ensure that all your devices are charged and your car has plenty of gas.
Anne Banas, editor at BBC Travel, also recommends checking in online and printing your boarding pass (or getting an electronic one sent to your mobile phone). When you get to the airport, you can bypass the long check-in lines and head straight to security.
Get to the airport early
No one likes to spend more time than they have to at the airport, but think of it this way: You can sip your coffee at home OR you can get to the airport well in advance, navigate security and enjoy a more relaxing cup of java at your gate.
Plus, airports now have a variety of ways to occupy your time while you wait.
“There’s so much to do at many airports – if you get there early and have time to spare, enjoy a meal, go shopping,” says George Hobica, president of Airfarewatchdog.com, a leading airfare alert site.
Some airports, like Denver International, have public art collections, as well as live music and other events to ease traveler stress. Miami, Dallas-Fort Worth, San Francisco, LAX and Charlotte are among a growing number of airports where volunteers bring in therapy dogs for passenger meet and greets as a way to reduce flier anxiety.
Visit the official website of your airport to access guides, maps and schedules.
Pre-book airport parking
There’s nothing more nerve-wracking than getting to the airport and finding all the economy lots full. Of course, that possibility increases significantly at many airports across the country with the deluge of Memorial Day weekend flyers.
Luckily, AirportParkingHelper.com offers a number of money-saving options, including pre-booking at a private, off-site parking lot. Free shuttles run on a regular basis and drop you off right at your terminal.
Another popular option is to choose a hotel with free airport parking and shuttle, which can often be less expensive than parking on-site at the airport depending on the length of your trip.
If you prefer to leave your car at home, there are also companies at most airports that offer economical shared-ride shuttles, as well as private van, limo or car services.
Whatever option you choose, book in advance and use a coupon code to secure the best rates.
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