Going Home for the Holidays? 5 Travel Tips for Your Homecoming

A Visit to Ilocos Norte, Philippines
A Visit to Ilocos Norte, Philippines

Home for the holidays! What a wonderful feeling.  The reality is that we need to overcome the stressful planning and travel before we get to the fun part.

In this post, I will share my observations and travel tips with Canadian residents who wish to go home for the holidays.  It’s only February but it’s never too early to prepare for your next grand vacation!

Travel Tip 1: Pick the Best Travel Time.

Avoid peak travel season.

I usually try to arrive in the Philippines before December 20th.  This way, I can avoid the rush of people leaving Canada and those arriving home for the holidays.  Sometimes, the rush leads to complications such as congestion in the airport or even missing luggage. I also get to avoid the unbearable traffic due to the Christmas shoppers and partygoers.

Another advantage to this is securing less expensive airfare. The closer the travel date to the holidays, the higher the demand, and the more expensive the ticket.

Avoiding peak travel season is actually my biggest travel tip.

Traffic Jam Even After the Manila Rush Hour
Traffic Jam Even After the Manila Rush Hour
Avoid rush hours.

Based on my experience, leaving Canada at night and arriving in the Philippines in the wee hours of the morning seem more convenient.

Before my evening flight, there was hardly any lineup at bag drop and security.  The only disadvantage of flying at night is that some restaurants and stores were already closed. So, if you are the type who likes shopping and eating while waiting, you would have to find other ways to entertain yourself or make do with the limited options still available.

Arriving in the Philippines before 6 am was also convenient.  A 2017 report by CNN Philippines states that the airport’s peak hours occur from 10 am-12 pm and 4 pm -6 pm.  Of course, you also have to be mindful of the unbearable rush hour in Manila which falls between 7 am to 9 am and from 5 pm to 9 pm on weekdays.

One of My Top Travel Tips is To Avoid Manila Rush Hours
One of My Top Travel Tips is To Avoid Manila Rush Hours
Ensure that you have adequate time to make it to your connecting flight.

The Alternative Airlines website recommends a minimum of two hours for layovers for international flights.  This would prevent the stress while going through customs and immigration, as well as going to your terminal at the opposite end of a huge airport.

My sister had a layover in Malaysia for only a little over an hour.  She was horrified when she found out that she had to ride a train or a bus to get to her terminal.  So, she had to run to catch their flight.

I once had a 1.5-hour layover in Seoul.  I did have to rush but in the end, I had more than enough time to relax while waiting for boarding.  Checking the airport layout and the airline’s reputation gave me assurance.

Another Travel Tip: Make Sure That You Have Enough Time To Catch Your Connecting Flight
Another Travel Tip: Make Sure That You Have Enough Time To Catch Your Connecting Flight

Travel Tip 2: Choose the Seat and Carrier that’s Right For You.

Check airline reviews.

For stress-free travel, cost shouldn’t be the only consideration.  It is very important to check airline services and practices as well.

I have been to many countries to know that once you get through security, you are deemed safe to travel.  However, the last airline I flew with had another security check by the gate.  It would have been fine if they had announced or posted this information ahead of time.  Anyway, boarding was a bit late, and passengers were sitting by the hallway for around an hour.  An announcement would have prevented people from throwing out their drinks or hanging out to finish these. Also, this would have eliminated the need for staff to go through the lineup to mention the flight number and the limitations for liquids. 

As part of the security check, there was an x-ray scan and a rushed pat down in the congested space. This was not comfortable at all!

I will write about my experiences with different airlines. Watch out for it on this blog!

Travel Tip: Learn About Airline Procedures
A Surprising Security Check at the Boarding Gate
Book a seat based on habits. 

The airplane seat and layout hugely determine your comfort during your flight.  SeatGuru is a useful tool for finding a seat that’s right for you.  

I try to sleep during a long flight so I have enough energy to immediately transition into the holiday mood.  For this reason, I book a window seat.  If you are the type who needs to use the washroom frequently, you may want to book an aisle seat.

Travel Tip 3: Pack smart.

Pack essentials into your carry-on bags for a comfortable flight.

Airlines usually lend a small pillow and blanket. But, many passengers prefer to bring neck pillows for added comfort.  I sometimes bring mine and use the pillow provided for my back. 

Airlines may also give an amenity kit. However, I make sure that I have hand cream and lip balm with me because the air in the plane is dehydrating.

With these simple tips for travel, you can be more comfortable and rested. This will allow you to maximize your time with loved ones.

Make sure that your gadgets and liquids can be easily removed from your carry-on.

Imagine how stressful it is to fish for your electronics and liquids, spread these in trays, collect these, then pack them into your bags quickly.

The security check is actually the most stressful step for me as I need to make sure that I gathered all my belongings quickly and that everything that I collected is mine. So, one of my top travel tips to minimize stress is to make sure that items that need to be inspected are accessible.

Secure your check-in bags.

Some Canadian immigrants and residents use balikbayan boxes (corrugated boxes) instead of luggage when going back home because of their lightweight.  If you opt to do this, ensure that the material and packaging can stand rough handling as well as changes in temperature and humidity between countries. 

During my last trip, I was sad to see a shoe and a damaged box on the conveyor.  On my return trip, I saw another ripped box.  This time, a pack of dried mango fell out of the box.  You don’t want to disappoint the person who was supposed to receive a gift, right?

The Spirit of Haida Gwaii: The Jade Canoe, Bill Reid, 1994
The Spirit of Haida Gwaii: The Jade Canoe, Bill Reid, 1994 (Reference: YVR Website)

Travel Tip 4: Wear comfortable clothes.

For regular travelers, there will be a lot of walking, a bit of running, and some lifting. So, wear comfy clothes and shoes.

When choosing an outfit, also consider your destination. Wear layers when traveling from Canada to a warmer country like the Philippines.

When arriving in Manila, you can feel the heat and high humidity as soon as you leave the plane.  You will feel relieved to peel off some layers. 

I saw some people change into flip-flops before our plane landed.  That is great for keeping cool.  However, I am not sure how well that works when claiming huge luggage and navigating trolleys.

Nativity Scene at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, 2022

Travel Tip 5: Research Resources at Your Destination’s Airport.

Get help if you need it.

I have been to several cities in North America, Europe, and Asia and I have only seen “very active and enthusiastic” porters in Manila.  Ask for help if you need to.  However, their assistance is not free.

For those who are not used to this type of service, you might find their energetic offers and presence a bit uncomfortable.  It is quite weird to find a bunch of porters and service providers as soon as you enter the passenger boarding bridge. But, that’s just me. Some people will be pleased to find an extra pair of helping hands.

Arrange for transportation from the airport or do research on your best option.

Landing is not the end of the journey.  The last hurdle is getting to your accommodation quickly and safely.  While getting picked up by loved ones is always the best, some of us need to travel to another location or arrange for our own transportation to our accommodation.   Make sure that the carrier can accommodate your bags. Also, ensure that you have the right mode of payment or sufficient local currency. Please check the presence of authorized carriers and potential scams. You don’t want your holiday ruined by unscrupulous individuals.

Check out how to get mobile connectivity.

If you don’t want to pay for roaming services, know your alternatives before landing. Traveler SIM or Tourist SIM cards may be available at the airport.  With a local SIM, you can quickly contact your loved ones or arrange for transportation at less cost.

The Christmas season is the best time for Filipinos to go home for the holidays.  But it is also the most stressful time to do so.  I hope these travel tips help you enjoy your well-deserved vacation!

Here are some photos from my recent vacation. Enjoy!

Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte, PhilippinesPatapat Viaduct

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *