Q: In terms of travel, what can we expect to see this holiday season?
There's good news and bad news for those of you who haven't made your travel plans. Waiting until the last minute to book airfare is problematic this time of you. Airlines are reporting that Airfare could be 70% higher from now until Christmas.
Where can you save: Fly in/out of smaller - alternative airports and airlines. For example, discount airlines Allegiant Air and Porter Airlines offer significant savings from smaller, regional airports.
For HO HO HOTELS - With so many people staying with family over the holidays, many hotels will have availability, which can translate into last-minute hotel savings.
Sign up for social media and mobile deals from your favorite travel company. There are some great travel apps out there. The hotels.com mobile app just exceeded 10 million downloads and offers up to the minute deals through mobile devices, which is great when trying to decide between the comforts of a hotel and Aunt Irma's couch.
While it is the holidays and prices are up look beyond price at what is included in your booking. Look for value in aspects of your travel booking like free Wifi; complimentary breakfast and other perks that can help you stretch your travel dollar during the holidays.
Q: What tips do you have for getting through TSA?
TSA has relaxed some of their rules for going through security at the airport. Familiarize yourself with the 3-1-1 Rule for liquids, gels and aerosols in carry-on bags, as well as the handling of food/gifts.
For those 75 and older and children 12 and under - keep their shoes on. For everyone else - Wear slip-on shoes. This allows travelers to remove and replace shoes quickly without the need to sit down.
Leave your belt and jewelry in your carry-on bag or purse until you clear security. This way you don't have to deal with putting it on, taking it off and putting it back on.
For parents: Here's one of my most helpful tips if you are traveling with an infant - carry the infant in a baby carrier - like a baby bjorn (not a car seat) to go through security. A simple TSA palm-swipe gets you through and you have saved having to get baby out of a car seat or stroller, collapse it, etc.
The best way to keep kids happy while flying is to pack lots of snacks, so remember: baby formula and food, breast milk, and juice are allowed in reasonable quantities exceeding 3.4 ounces (100ml) and are not required to be in the zip-lock bag. I recommend telling the TSA agent that you have them up front. I actually like to freeze the juice boxes before traveling and by the time you clear security and get to a comfortable cruising altitude the juice will be defrosted.
Also, if you are traveling with food that you need to keep cool remember that the gel-packs that you put in your cooler are not allowed on the plane. What do you do instead? Frozen Peas!
Q: Any holiday surprises to avoid when going through security?
Don't wrap your gifts before going through security. You are just asking to have them unwrapped. Pack some tissue paper and a gift bag and you can fix your present when you arrive to your destination.
If you are trying to get goodies to Grandmas, remember these rules: you can bring pies and cakes through the security checkpoint, but please be advised that they are subject to additional screening. And leave any jams, salsa, jellies, peanut butters at home or ship them ahead- they wont make it through.
Do you know one of the most confiscated items at a TSA security checkpoint? A snow globe! What an awesome way to remember a trip just pack it in your checked bag or ship it home first.
Q: What are some hotels going the extra mile this holiday season?
Teddy Bear Tea at Ritz-Carlton's
November 30-December 24 - Two seatings: 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.Children and their favorite stuffed animals gather for this popular tradition featuring Santa's Elves and the giant Ritz-Carlton Teddy Bear.
The place to meet is at the Little America Hotel in Flagstaff, a well-known hotel near the Interstate 40 that's decked out in millions of lights. Families will climb aboard their elf-driven trolley and ride through the magic portal to Santa's workshop. All along the way, Christmas music rings, lights flash and the magic begins.
Christmas in Las Vegas
The low-traffic Christmas and Chanukah season-the lull before the New Year's Eve hullaballoo -will offer sweet deals on hotels, restaurants and shows.
The Venetian and its sister, The Palazzo, will stage Winter in Venice Nov. 18 through Jan. 6, with a six-week run of Mannheim Steamroller Christmas Las Vegas in The Palazzo Theater, a nightly parade, tree-lighting ceremonies, a 3D light projection show and the return of a romantic ice rink above the Grand Canal. Perhaps best of all, this winter fantasy comes at a good price, with packages available starting at $149.
It doesn't snow in San Francisco - unless you're inside the atrium of the Hyatt Regency San Francisco, across from the Ferry Building in the Embarcadero. Here, it snows three times a day indoors starting Friday through Dec. 31. The hotel is also installing its Department 56 Snow Village, a 200-piece little winter wonderland with a train running through it. Check out December rates start around $255 on sanfranciscoregency.hyatt.com
Q: What happens if there is Bad Weather?
Bad weather happens to good travelers. The key is to be on top of the weather situation BEFORE you even head to the airport. ts easier to get things accomplished from your home or office than at an airport.
Power goes out, batteries die. Make sure you have printed out or written down all of your important contacts and associated information: doctors,family members, schools, hotels, airlines, etc. In this era of smart phones, you'll find yourself feeling not so smart when you cant get in touch with anyone.
Call Your Hotel: If your flight changes to a different day, call your hotel and alert them of the change. Usually, hotels will not charge you a fee for weather related emergencies that result in a change to your reservation, as long as you call ahead and alert them of the situation.
Call about the Rental Car: Most car reservations aren't prepaid, so make sure to call the car rental company and revise your reservation to reflect your new travel plans. If it is prepaid, however, weather should exempt you from any change fees, and you should receive a revised rate based on your new length of rental.
Expect the Unexpected. Whether you are driving or flying during the holidays you want to keep a few things handy as unexpected weather events and more travelers on the roads can sometimes wreak havoc with our timetables. Extra diapers, baby wipes (which have a thousand uses), any necessary medicines for adults and children, change of clothes, snacks, phone and iPod chargers, and surprise goodies such as activity books or cards when the are we there yet? starts, are all things that you should have packed in a carry-on, not in a suitcase.
Be Flexible. The most important tip of all is to be flexible. Lines will be long, traffic will be heavy, flights will be delayed and children (and adults) will get grumpy. But this is the stuff memories are made of! With just a little planning, an open mind, and some holiday spirit, you will survive and enjoy another family vacation.
Nicole is the author of travelsmartblog.com and and has been quoted in various magazines and news programs including CBS Marketwatch, SoapTalk, BusinessWeek, TravelWeekly, USA Today, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and numerous network stations across the country. Additionally, she is featured regularly on various television morning programs, including The Rachael Ray Show, CW's Daily Buzz, The Morning Show with Mike & Juliet, among many others