Travel hacks to upgrade your holiday trips

Nikki Ekstein

So it begins: The holidays are here, and with them, the crush of holiday travel.

With these tips, you’ll be well-armed to tackle holiday travel stress — whether you’ve yet to solidify your plans or simply need to keep the peace amid airport chaos. It’s a holiday survival guide on supersmart steroids.

Get a last-minute booking

Lexie Alford, recognized by Guinness World Records as the youngest person to visit every country in the world, says Skyscanner is “definitely the best for booking last-minute stuff. It’s the most reliable, and it shows many different options: the fastest route, the cheapest route. How many stops you want to make.” She says it also offers an alternative for greener choices. For example: “This flight emits 32% less CO than average for your search.”

Don’t be afraid to negotiate. If your dream hotel has rooms available, and the competitor down the street has better pricing, hop on the phone. Desk agents have a habit of giving in for the sake of a direct, guaranteed booking.

With these tips, you’ll be well-armed to tackle holiday travel stress — whether you’ve yet to solidify your plans or simply need to keep the peace amid airport chaos.

By the same token, ask what your hotel includes free of charge. Airport transfers, room service, non-motorized water sports equipment — Moti Ankari, a fashion influencer and co-creator of the menswear shoe brand, Ankari Floruss, has gotten all of these without adding a dime to the cost of his stays.

Ace your packing game

Don’t pack what a hotel can give you. Westins provides gym clothes on loan. Many hotels can offer up rain boots, hiking gear, dog beds and other bulky goods your suitcase can do without.

Use a washed and dried prescription bottle to pack toiletries that don’t come in travel sizes. The shape of the bottles makes them easy to clean; tamper-proof lids mean they’ll never spill.

A tiny, tidy stain-removing kit will let you re-wear outfits with confidence. Include baby powder (for grease stains), dryer sheets (to keep everything smelling fresh — even your laundry compartment), and Shout wipes or a Tide pen.

Downy Wrinkle Release spray erases creases.

Stay ahead of any crisis

Bad Airbnb? Nasty forecast? When your vacation looks like it’s taking a turn for the worse, salvage matters with a strategic pivot. Don’t fall prey to the fallacy of sunk costs. You can always rebook, reroute, and file your complaints and disputes from a much happier place.

Worried about a potential flight cancellation? Book a hotel proactively, says ABC News correspondent Rebecca Jarvis. Her logic: You can’t cancel a last-minute replacement flight, but refundable rooms are easy to come by. And once that announcement is made, everyone will be scrambling for the last decent room in town — except for you.

Use the Flight app to learn about flight disruptions before anyone else. Yes, it costs $50 per year, but you can get a free trial and hear about delays, cancellations and aircraft issues well before they’re officially announced.

Peripatetic traveler Alford wants to make sure you never get taken for a ride again.

“Email your hotel before you arrive and ask what the average price is for a taxi from the airport,” she advises. Knowing that price will help you dispute an inflated number. “If you get to the hotel, and the meter is unbelievably high, refuse to pay for it or call the cops,” she says.

Stay entertained anywhere

Don’t have lounge access? Look for an airport yoga room. They’re free, underutilized and usually empty. is a sort of indie Audible that supports indie bookstores. Just add headphones.

Want to plan a perfect day exploring as a plugged-in tourist, whether you’re in your hometown or somewhere new? Try out Journy, which creates a custom-tailored itinerary in most major cities for as little as $25.

Pack an extension cord. It will come in handy well after you’ve juiced up at the airport. No matter where you’re sleeping, it’s a surefire way to make sure there’s an outlet just where you’re used to having one, whether that’s bedside,sink-side, or anywhere in between.