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Simon Calder, also known as The Man Who Pays His Way, has been writing about travel for The Independent since 1994. In his weekly opinion column, he explores a key travel issue – and what it means for you.
In this section, I occasionally aim to provide helpful advice, and the beginning of December presents a perfect chance. The holiday season can bring added stress and responsibilities for many individuals, which can often take away from planning and preparing for travel. Therefore, I have decided to offer some tips for traveling before and during Christmas.
Travelers may unintentionally overlook these key elements of holiday trips.
Please allocate extra time for airport security as it can be a lengthy process.
During the winter season, fellow travelers often carry coats, hats, and scarves, as well as delicate gifts for Christmas. Those in front of you in the security line may not be frequent travelers and may not be familiar with the procedures as much as you are. Speaking of which…
Do not put those gifts in wrapping before going through airport security.
Security personnel are obligated to inspect any items that appear suspicious on their scanners – this could potentially include your creatively acquired holiday presents. It would not be an enjoyable beginning to your holiday travels if you had to witness someone tearing apart all of your meticulously wrapped gifts for further inspection. And…
Turn your journey into a snowdome-free experience.
Snowglobes made of plastic often create problems during security checks. These festive trinkets, which contain liquid and do not have any quantity labels, can draw attention from security personnel who may want to inspect or even take away the decorative item.
The regulations regarding liquids in containers of up to 100ml still apply at most airports in the UK. Also, be aware that some airports and airlines allow crackers to be brought on as carry-on items, while others do not.
Don’t miss out on the party
Traveling overseas during the Christmas season can be a great idea, but in certain eastern European nations, the primary Christmas festivities take place on December 24th.
Not everything shuts down overseas.
The UK is an outlier in closing down the railways on 25 December; in most continental nations Christmas Day has near-normal service. Some top tourist attractions, too, remain open. The magnificent Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, for example, is open as normal from 9am to 5pm.
6 Christmas Day is an excellent day on which to fly
If it is possible for you to get to the airport (as described below), there is a high chance that there will be fewer people and lower prices for flights compared to the days before and after. For instance, flying from Gatwick to Malaga on Christmas Day with Vueling costs £90 for a one-way ticket, while on Christmas Eve it costs £150 (67% more) and on Boxing Day it costs £136 (51% more).
Extend your festivities by heading towards the west.
Do you dream of having Christmas every day? You can make it happen by being in Ethiopia or an Eastern Orthodox country during their celebrations on 7 January. Alternatively, you can extend your Christmas by eight hours by flying to California and taking advantage of the time difference. British Airways is offering a fare of £597 for a flight from Heathrow to Los Angeles on Christmas Day, with a return two weeks later.
Eight bus companies that specialize in long-distance travel are here for your support.
On Christmas Day, trains in the UK come to a complete stop, and on Boxing Day, they mostly halt. During this holiday season, there are several disruptive projects by Network Rail and HS2 that will result in the closure of important train lines and London stations.
National Express will operate nearly 500 trips on 34 routes on Christmas Day, including approximately 100 connections between London and Heathrow and Gatwick airports. FlixBus and Megabus are also operating efficiently. Numerous intercity connections will run on December 25th and by the next day, a mostly regular Tuesday schedule will be in place.
Nine ferries are shutting down as well.
DFDS Ferries from Dover to Calais have their last sailing before Christmas Day at 1:15pm on December 24th, and for Dunkirk it is at 2pm. The routes will resume around 10am on Boxing Day. Eurotunnel’s LeShuttle, on the other hand, operates every day of the year without interruption.
10 Sort out your holiday money in advance
Exchanging currency at the airport before your departure will result in a poor exchange rate, and using your regular bank card while traveling could result in high fees. Check out our holiday money guide for tips on maximizing your spending.
I am always eager to hear your great ideas! You can reach me via email at [email protected] or on X at @SimonCalder.