We can learn a lot from the way Santa travels. His packages are bright, he makes a list and checks it twice, and maintains a jolly disposition in the face of winter storms and a near-impossible travel schedule. He is such a travel pro, we’ve decided to draw on his time-tested wisdom for our list of holiday packing tips. Yes, having a brood of magical reindeer and genius elves to lead us out of harm’s way would be an asset during holiday travels, but since that isn’t an option, who better to inspire our seasonal preparedness than the ultimate bearded jetsettter himself?
1. Carry or Check
Considering your destination, trip type, airline baggage fees, and packing tendencies, determine if you’re going to carry or check your baggage. Bear in mind, the volume of luggage routed through airports over the holiday season skyrockets, so if you do check a bag, always carry your valuables (and essentials) in your carry-on, and non-valuables in your checked suitcase. Father Christmas would never trust his valuables to anybody but himself.
2. Suitcase Savvy
Before boarding, knowing your bag’s dimensions is half the battle—how else could Santa fit all the world’s toys onto one tiny sleigh? Review your airline’s baggage rules, learn the exact dimensions of your suitcase, and be able to quote them with confidence. Airlines get extra grinchy with weight and linear inches over the holidays, so know your limits and pack within them.
Insider Tip: If you’re worried about your suitcase dimensions, leave it at home and bring a duffel bag in its place. Squishy bags can be molded into the baggage cage much more easily than structured counterparts.
3. Add Some Color
Most people skew toward monochromatic tones for their rolling packages (read: over 70% of the suitcases that land on baggage carousels are black). But Père Noël goes for brights and he’s the happiest traveler in the world. Differentiate your suitcase with a small and saturated splash of color: a bright ID tag, a luggage strap, a pouffy pom pom, or all three!
Insider Tip: Suitcase IDs routinely fall off, so slap on more than one to make sure your bag doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.
4. What’s Up Doc
It’s the most wonderful time of the year… to carry a printed back-up of your itinerary and passport. We love the app revolution, especially when it comes to digitized itineraries, but if you’re stuck in an airport or train station and your smartphone dies, you’ll be a happy camper knowing you printed out your trip details.
5. Delay Care Kit
Take 10 minutes at home to put together a travel delay kit filled with sustenance and distraction. Think about what you’d need for up to 24 hours of waiting for inclement weather in planes, trains, or automobiles. We suggest the following: a collapsible water bottle that can be filled up after security, packaged foods like protein bars that don’t contain nuts or anything else that would be prohibited over border crossings, an oversized scarf that doubles as a blanket, a smartphone battery pack/charger, and a book to name a few.
6. Make a List and Check it Twice
Not that we want to plan for the worst, but, if Santa makes a list and checks it twice, so should we. Write down the contents of your bag—carry-on or checked—to keep a log of what’s inside in case it’s lost or an item is misplaced while on the road.
7. Snap Happy
Your digital camera isn’t just for silhouettes and sunsets. Use it to your advantage: snap your passport picture page, tickets, confirmations, and contents of your suitcase, then guard your digicam like it’s your most prized possession. This way you’ll have a visual snapshot of your essentials.
8. Not One and the Same
Traveling in the US, you’re allowed one carry-on and one purse/laptop case. Traveling through London’s Heathrow you can only have one carry-on. Even though you’re allowed to transport tweezers on the plane in North America, they are considered dangerous in Australia. Santa’s sleigh might be above the law, but we aren’t, so investigate international baggage rules before flying away.
9. Travel Insurance
Triple check your travel insurance before departing to determine your leeway for lost luggage, cancelled flights, trip interruption, or medical contingencies.
10. That’s a Wrap
If you’re spreading holiday cheer with gifts, wait to wrap them until you arrive. Wrapped gifts do not go over well through security or border control. Plus, crushed bows are a buzz kill.
Insider Tip: Plan ahead to travel light and ship your gifts to your destination.
Photo credit: Santa’s carry-on via Shutterstock