The year-end travel season has arrived – but it can also feel like a ghastly jaunt through overflowing airports and overhyped hotels.

The antidote is to have a plan, but be willing to ditch it.

Veteran traveller and marketing specialist Sandy Quek, 51, comes up with thoroughly researched itineraries for her trips to Europe, which last as long as 17 days. But she knows when to depart from the plan.

“The big-picture schedule must be there. But once you’re at the destination and a city is not so appealing, you can take the train to another city.”

Travel writer Pico Iyer, who has penned luminous travelogues such as Video Night In Kathmandu and Sun After Dark, told SundayLife! recently: “The planning is what allows me to do without the plan.”

For travel both during and outside of the festive period, eight seasoned flyers offer a spectrum of tips to save time and sanity.

Travel tips for festive season1) Google airport maps

 Before you fly, spend a few moments online to familiarise yourself with the layout of your arrival terminal. Get a sense of where the immigration, customs and baggage zones are, so you can whizz through.

If you are in transit, check how to get to your connecting flight or where the shops are.

Also decide on your mode of transport to the hotel, so your first stop starts well.

You are now more ready to stride through the holiday crowd. Says investor Deepak Gurnani, 51, who travels for work or pleasure 20 to 30 times a year: “Walk with purpose and confidence. It’s a big help to be prepared. The vultures are waiting.”

2) Have a trusted travel agent

Yes, this may seem counter-intuitive in a day of proliferating online options. Yet an agent can advise on savvy travel to save time or money, for instance, flying in and out of two different airports.

Importantly, the agent can cut holiday hassle if you adjust travel plans on the road.

Travel tipsMs Katie Webber, 25, director of sales (Asia) at Revinate, which helps hospitality players manage their online reputation, works with a capable travel agent, Flight Centre, for her monthly trips, whether for work or pleasure.

“My agent knows things I don’t,” says the Hong Kong-based Californian who was in Singapore recently for TravelRave, a tourism trade festival.

“If I book a cheap flight on Air China and need to change, it’s a pain but she deals with it.”

3) Book a massage before flying off

 Unkink muscles before a long flight. Or do anything you find soothing – linger in a cafe perhaps or read a book – as travel, especially during festive periods, can be arduous.

4) Pay to use an airport lounge

 For some comfort in transit, pay US$35 (S$43) or so to relax at lounges in certain airports such as the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.

Also, some banks such as Standard Chartered offer credit cards packaged with a Priority Pass for complimentary access to airport lounges.

Priority Pass, an independent airport lounge access programme, operates 600 lounges in over 100 countries. You can sign up for membership at www.prioritypass.com.

5) Go with the flow

 The room may not be right or the flight is not on time, which happens on holidays. That fazes infrequent travellers but not Mr Brett Henry, 44, vice-president (commercial division) of Abacus, which provides travel solutions and services.

“Travel is very emotional. My advice is, try not to be emotional,” says the ex-Silicon Valley denizen, who has lived a decade in Singapore.

Travel tips for festive seasonHe is on the road 50 times a year. “That’s more than once a week,” he points out.

“I just go with the flow of things.”

6) Check ahead for rain

If it is raining when the plane lands, you may like to prepare for a traffic-choked transfer by buying food and drink, and using the bathroom. Then keep yourself entertained with a smart device.

7) Have a local contact

In case of emergency, have a local contact, perhaps a friend of a friend.

Even if you have researched your destination perfectly on the Internet, a local guide with local stories can lift your experience at a crammed landmark.

8) Bring meat floss

When travelling with children, think about packing lightweight floss of pork, chicken or fish.

Toss some into porridge if a child is unwell. Or make a quick sandwich if the family takes a couple of days to take to a new cuisine, says mother of two, Ms Michele Cheng, 42.

Floss is also a talking point or a little gift at your destination, adds the business director of Eksalife, a start-up that specialises in unconventional Asian destinations.

Travel tips for festive season

Just 200g go a long way. But make sure the floss is sealed and you can travel with it, as some countries such as Australia consider food products a bio-security risk.

9) Wrap gifts after you arrive

Items in your luggage are subject to security checks. You may be asked to unwrap any gifts you have prepared.

10) Ask for an upgrade

Look presentable, as if you fit into Business Class. Be nice to ticketing and gate agents. They can make exceptions or extend help.

Mr Gurnani, who has often been offered upgrades to Business Class, says: “Don’t be shy to ask for an upgrade.”

This article was first run in The Straits Times newspaper on November 18, 2012. For similar stories, go
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