Holiday travel: Tips for airports, road trips and border crossings

This week sees some of the busiest days at airports, snarls of traffic along icy highways and seemingly endless lineups at the U.S. border.

Be prepared, plan ahead and don’t stress too much, say experts

Preparation is key to ease holiday travel stress, experts say. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)

This week sees some of the busiest days at airports, snarls of traffic along icy highways and seemingly endless lineups at the U.S. border.

There's no surefire way to avoid the stress of holiday travel, but there are some tips to make it easier to manage — whether travelling by car, bus, plane or boat.

Kate Wells, owner of the province-wide driving school DriveWiseBC, said the biggest time saver is preparing everything in advance.

"Prepare your vehicle, prepare your passengers and also prepare your driving skills," she told CBC guest host of B.C. Almanac Dan Burritt.

Double-check your route and weather conditions to make sure your car is ready to take on whatever the roads throw at it.

"A lot of people are driving with just regular all-season tires," Wells said. "And a lot of people don't actually know what kind of brakes they have in their car."

Winter tires are needed for ice or snow and the kind of brakes changes how you stop — constant pressure is needed for newer vehicles with ABS brakes and a pumping motion for cars without ABS, she said.

"This time of the year, crashes are increased because we are not prepared for the road conditions," she said.

"Take a deep breath because it is stressful out there," she added.

Check road and weather conditions before you leave to avoid getting stuck in bad conditions, says Kate Wells. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Airport delays

The same is true at the airports. Jeff Scherban, manager of airport operations at Kamloops Regional Airport, said delays are common this time of year but there are ways to speed up lines.

Look up what you can and cannot bring on a flight before you leave, he said, and know the limits for both carry-on and checked baggage.

And be ready with everything at hand at security, Scherban said.

"Be prepared for having your electronic devices checked," he said. "If you are bringing Christmas presents with you, don't wrap them here."

Christmas gifts that are wrapped may need to be opened to show security personnel what's inside, Scherban explained.

Have electronics easily accessible and don't wrap gifts beforehand to get through security faster, says Jeff Scherban. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Border crossing stress

Gifts can also be a problematic issue at the border.

Luciano Nis, who used to work for Canada Border Services Agency and wrote a book of tips about stress-free border crossings, recommended having all the information about your gifts readily available.

"If you are bringing a gift down for someone, especially in the United States, you want to know what the value is and make sure that if you are giving it to a person that information is readily available," he said.

When bringing gifts back into Canada, make sure there are no restrictions on them, he added. Plant and animal products are usually highly regulated.

"Be truthful," he said. "Even if you realize you are over the [duty free] limit, allow the officer to make that decision."

With files from B.C. Almanac.

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