Ill-planned winter holiday travel is the stuff of nightmares. Missed departure times, unending security checks, lost luggage, overbooked flights, trains or buses, weather delays, gridlock on major highways, dangerous weather-related road conditions — the list of potential problems is staggering. Weather-related issues, traffic jams and other unforeseen problems are beyond anyone’s control. Have contingency plans and try not to stress about what you can’t control. While you can’t plan for everything, there are many elements of travel that can be controlled by logical pre-trip preparation. Whether you are leaving Baltimore or visiting family and friends for the holidays, there are a number of simple tips to make holiday travel less stressful.
Tips For Holiday Travel
Establish a detailed travel plan that includes departure date and times, modes of travel, packing essentials, financial considerations, special health needs, etc. Make arrangements to secure your home while you are away. If necessary, arrange pet care. Cover the basics and develop a pre-travel checklist, or others available online. It is a good idea to create a list of what to pack and what not to pack. Free travel apps abound; even an app for winter travel is offered free online.
Related: Mid-Atlantic Almanac Calls For Heavy Winter Snow
Maryland Department of Transportation
707 N. Calvert St.
Baltimore, Md. 21202
Avoid the busiest travel days if at all possible. Plan to leave a few days before Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s. For the return trip, depart a few days after the holiday. No matter when you are traveling, there are free mobile travel apps available that provide GPS information, live traffic updates, road condition and emergency alerts, the cheapest gas price locations, restaurant and lodging information and much more: Google Maps, TripIt, TripCase, and even a bathroom locator — SitOrSquat — to name a few. Maryland offers CHARTWeb Mobile that provides traffic alerts, weather stations and route restriction information.
The Maryland Transit Administration offers Maryland Area Regional Commuter or MARC train services to Harford County, Baltimore City, Washington, D.C., Brunswick, Frederick and Martinsburg, W.Va. MTA operates 51 local bus lines in the Baltimore area; commuter bus service has 24 routes available weekdays at morning and evening rush hours; light rail trains are available at peak and off peak commuter times between Timonium, Linthicum, Hunt Valley, BWI , Cromwell, Penn Station and Camden Yards. The 14-station Metro Subway operates at specified times during the week and on holidays. MTA also offers online and mobile MTA Rider Tools
100 Light St.
Baltimore, Md. 21202
Whether a visitor or resident of Charm City, Visit Baltimore offers information on everything from arts, culture and history, to lodging, dining, attractions, events and transportation. The organization’s website also offers an online trip planner. A Visit Baltimore Mobile App for iPhone, Blackberry and Android provides instant access to information on events, restaurants, attractions, shopping and lodging.
Related: Must Have Items To Survive Winter In Baltimore
Maryland Aviation Administration
Third Floor, Terminal Building
BWI Airport, Md. 21240
Air travelers are faced with ever-increasing security checks prior to boarding planes. Even at the best of times, it can be the worst of times dealing with luggage checks, luggage fees, changing departure and arrival times, flight cancellations, delays and many other situations that can tax a weary traveler’s patience. Winter holidays at airports are unquestionably the worst of times. As with any holiday travel, plan to leave several days before the holiday or after the holiday. Arrive at least 15 to 30 minutes prior to the scheduled departure time. Prior to packing, check luggage security restrictions, know if the airline charges a luggage handling fee, check parking availability, shuttle bus schedules and car rental rates. BWI offers two parking lots: Econopark Express and Valetpark Express, both located three miles from the airport. Both include guaranteed parking with reservation, no waiting free shuttle service to and from your vehicle, baggage and flight information assistance, free bottled water and complimentary USA Today Newspaper. At Econopark, owners self-park vehicles. Econopark Express rates are $7.35 per day or $25.85 for three days. Valetpark Express rates are $11.40 per day or $38 for three days. Flightstats.com offers free mobile apps for iPad, Android and others, which allow travelers to check flight information, delays, alerts, weather, etc.
1500 N. Charles St.
Baltimore, Md. 21201
Penn Station riders should remember Baltimore is ranked eighth for the busiest Amtrak stations in the country with an average of 953,170 riders per year. Penn Station in New York City, Union Station in Washington, D.C.; and the 30th Street Station in Philadelphia round out the top three. Rail travel may offer travelers cheaper rates than the airlines, but holiday travel blues are waiting for the unprepared. As with any winter holiday travel, plan to leave a few days before the holiday and return a few days after the holiday. Rates will be cheaper, and fewer holiday travelers will be competing for seats. Plan to check in 45 minutes before departure if you need tickets or baggage help or other passenger assistance services. If tickets have been pre-purchased and there is no need for baggage or other personal services, plan on arriving 30 minutes prior to departure times. Check the Amtrak website for emergency alerts, travel advisories, arrival and departure information. Amtrak offers mobile travel apps for iPhone and Android, as well. The AmTrak Mobile allows travelers to book trips on trains and buses; arrival and departure status of trains is continually updated; eTickets can be purchased using the app; and you can modify reservation, upgrade seats and check stations for hours, amenities and locations.