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Holiday, biz travelers set to share the busy, busy skies

Although the holidays are approaching, many people still have to travel for business. Others will be traveling for vacations and to visit family or friends. Several area travel agents have shared their tips on how to best manage the chaos of the holiday travel season.

Glen Hellman of Corrigan Travel in Jackson says that with air travel growing more difficult, leisure travelers may want to consider driving destinations for the holidays.

“There are many great destinations that are an easy drive from Jackson. There’s the laid back atmosphere of San Antonio, where visitors can stroll on the River Walk through the heart of the city as well as visit the historic Alamo. There are plenty of wonderful beach rentals along Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and Destin,” he said. “The carpet has been rolled out to visitors in New Orleans, where visitors are welcomed with open arms. They need the business, and the restaurants and entertainment has never been better. For mountains, drive to Chattanooga, or for country music, visit Nashville. And Branson has more family entertainment than ever before.”

Hellman also suggests cruises for holiday vacations. “You can take a four- or five-day cruise out of New Orleans that includes the western Caribbean, or a three- or four-day cruise out of Mobile.”

If you do have to travel by air, Hellman suggests showing up early. “Make sure you have specific seat assignments, because that reduces your chances of getting bumped. Then just take along a good book and relax, knowing you’re going to have to wait. People need to realize that air travel just isn’t easy any more, but it’s like childbirth, you forget the pain and look for the end result!”

Hellman says he believes the airlines are at the bottom of the valley, and that in time, things will get better.

Be patient — and prepared

“Be patient and be prepared,” is the advice from Peggy Shamburger at Avanti Travel. “Check with the airlines 24 hours prior to travel to re-confirm.”

Shamburger advises people to have the proper identification — a driver’s license for travel in the United States and a valid passport for travel out of the country. “On heavy travel days, especially right before and after a holiday, be at the airport earlier than usual, and know the carry-on requirements. Because it changes so much, we constantly monitor the TSA requirements and provide that information to the clients along with their tickets.

Shamburger says a good travel agent can advise you on the right amount of weight for your bags. “Many people aren’t aware that the airlines will now charge you extra if your bags exceed their weight limits.”

Avoiding the hassle?

For seasoned travelers who want to avoid the hassle of the commercial airlines, charter service may be the answer.

“We’ve been in the charter business for 50 years,” says Sherry Runnels, office manager and travel agent for Jim Hankins Air Service. “It’s not comparable with the airlines as far as rates go, but it’s really more affordable than you may think, especially during the holidays. When it’s two or three weeks out from your departure date, and all the cheap air fares are gone, our rates don’t look so bad. We’re really just a little more than flying first class would cost. And if you can get others to split the cost of the plane with you, it becomes even more affordable.”

The largest plane at Hankins holds seven passengers, “but we’re looking into purchasing a 10- to 11-passenger jet.”

Runnels says that more and more, people who use the charter service for business are also beginning to use it for personal travel as well. “It’s hard to fight the chaos in the airports when you’re used to the convenience of charter service.”

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