22 Dos and Don’ts of Air Travel over Christmas

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Does Christmas bring to mind wintry weather, spiced cookies, or the problem of congested airports?! If you’re considering flying somewhere over the festive period, the lead-up to your flight can be fraught with stresses. As someone who flies a lot during December, let me share with you my curated lists of dos and don’ts for Christmas air travel. Time to fasten your seatbelts – metaphorically, of course!

Dos of Air Travel over Christmas

  1. Advance Seat Selection: if you’re travelling alone and don’t want to get stuck down the back in a middle seat, pay the extra for advance seat selection. If you are travelling with friends or family, you might want to do this too. Christmas is not the time to pester other passengers to move to accommodate your group.
  2. Automated Updates: sign-up for automated email updates from both your airline AND the airport. Last year, the security lines at some European airports got so long (cough, Dublin), that people missed flights, there were delays and it was a mega stress. Staying on top of notifications means you get to the airpot at the right time and know about any airline issues that could be critical for your journey.
  3. Book Direct Flights: booking a direct flight (if possible) to reduce the risk of delays, stressful layovers and missed second flights.
  4. Fly Christmas Day: if you’re flying long haul, you can save hundreds by flying on Christmas Day. This may be a no-no for some families, but it’s a frugal hack for others.
  5. Digital Check-In: I prefer seamless travel, so don’t line up for a printed boarding pass if you could check-in online and have it on your phone. It’s a more efficient way to help avoid the queueing that defines Christmas air travel. Remember that with Ryanair you must check-in online or pay extra at the airport.
  6. Timely Arrival: Punctuality is more than a virtue; it’s a necessity. Allow more time than you think you’ll need for all pre-flight formalities.
  7. Hand Luggage Only: the only way an airline can lose your luggage is if you don’t give them any. If your trip is short enough, choose hand luggage only.
  8. Stockings in the Sky: If you have little ones in your group, take a Santa Stocking filled with in-flight friendly snacks and presents. It will help them to keep their enthusiasm going during a long journey.
  9. In-Flight Snack Pack: While you might be able to buy tasty snacks in the airport, it’s not a guarantee, so come prepared with your own nibbles. I tend not to eat sugar, and sugar-free things are hard to find last minute in an airport.
  10. Regulatory Compliance: Airports and airlines are picky about what you can bring on board and it does differ from country to country. Take the moment or two to check the current regulations to avoid any embarrassing confiscations at Security/TSA.
  11. Bag Reconnaissance: Before you start packing, empty your bag entirely to ensure it doesn’t already contain any prohibited items, e.g., scissors, a step often overlooked yet crucial.

Don’ts of Air Travel over Christmas

  1. Airport Amenities: Forewarned is forearmed. Facilities like lounges or shops might have altered schedules during holidays or to manage queues.
  2. Last-Minute Bargains: The idiom “the early bird catches the worm” could have been coined for holiday airfares. Waiting for a last-minute deal is like playing aviation roulette. You don’t need the stress. Read my advice on booking holiday flights.
  3. Take the Essentials: Don’t forget any essentials (whether for yourself or a loved one). I mean medications, snacks, entertainment for kids (or partners). Negligence here could turn a joyful journey into an arduous one.
  4. Airport Humour: It’s not a joke to mention any kind of security-related threat in an airport or on a plane and it will have legal consequences. Zip it.
  5. Queue Melancholy: Airport queues are absolutely inevitable around Christmas and New Year. Exercise patience, take something to read.
  6. Be Polite with Staff: don’t lose your temper with an airline or airport staff member. It won’t help anyone and mostly changes, delays or problems are outside of their control.
  7. Self-Sufficiency: It bears repeating—pack your own source of entertainment and sustenance.

Tips for a Smooth Christmas Travel Experience

  1. Fashion advice: Dress in layers that are easy to take off or put on during security screenings or to adapt to temperature changes.
  2. Charge Ahead: A portable power bank is your lifeline to staying connected.
  3. Hydration: Always bring an empty bottle to refill post-security. Most airports now offer free refill stations.
  4. Cordiality: Exercise both patience and politeness. A dash of courtesy goes a long way.


Navigating air travel during the Christmas season is a bit of an art that brings together preparation, knowledge, and patience. As you make your way to your busy local airport, keep these dos and don’ts in mind. They might not shift your air travel experience from tolerable to downright enjoyable, but they should take some stress out of the situation!

Cover image from Wikimedia Commons.

I'm Patrick, your Irish guide to the skies and beyond. With 58 countries visited, my journeys have taken me from busy economy to fabulous first-class.

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