How to handle flight cancellations, get better deals on gas, and avoid headaches this holiday weekend.

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It’s safe to say Americans have regained their wanderlust. According to a recent survey conducted by the Vacationer, “more than 53% of American adults intend to travel for Labor Day this year,” meaning that a whopping 137 million people are hitting the road this weekend. And while we’re elated the industry is on the rebound, the sheer volume means that things may get harried. After all, U.S. airlines have had nothing short of a record-breaking summer of cancellations and delays. So, we’ve tapped some of our favorite travel folks to share tips they’ve gleaned from a lifetime of adventuring on how to make the best of the holiday weekend.

Whether you’re going by air or by car, here are some of their hacks for Labor Day Weekend travel, from what to do if your flight gets canceled to how to avoid wild gas prices, not to mention meditative listening selections to serve as salve on a stressful journey. 

PREETHI CHANDRASEKHAR

An avid photographer and travel writer, Preethi Chandrasekhar is passionate about empowering women to explore the outdoors. Her site The Eager Traveler features incredible global travel coverage, but we’re particularly fond of her hiking and backpacking guides to California.

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AVOID GAS SURGES: “I use the GasBuddy the app to track down which gas station has the cheapest price per gallon,” says Chandradekhar, who also opts in to gas station loyalty programs. “Even grocery stores like Kroger offer fuel points for every dollar spent on groceries.”

BOOKING DIRECT: “Book directly with your airline, because it’s easier to change your itinerary versus when you book through a third party.” She also suggests having the customer service number handy, and checking on the carrier’s cancellation policies ahead of time. “If the airline cancels your flight, under federal law you are entitled to a full refund if you decide not to travel. If you do decide to travel, research the next available flight and timing before speaking to a rep.”

KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON: “My No. 1 tip is carrying on,” she says of hopping on a different flight in the event that yours gets canceled. This insures your luggage stays with you in the case of rescheduling. “I also carry a lavender essential oil; I get mine from Young Living, and it helps calm my nerves. I just dab a few drops onto my palms and inhale deeply. If things start going haywire,” she says, “stay calm, take five deep long breaths when you feel yourself spiraling, and remember to be kind. Everyone is going through something and is just trying to do their best at the end of the day.”

SHONTEL HORNE 

Shontel Horne is a luxury travel writer and producer, as well as a wine industry entrepreneur. Her recently launched company VINOTES is a stylish tasting notebook for aspiring wine enthusiasts—a must-have for your next road trip through wine country.

GO AGAINST THE GRAIN: “As someone who has lived far from my family for more than a decade, my biggest holiday travel hack is to fly on the actual holiday whenever possible,” says Horne. “Flight deals are always the cheapest, the airports are less crowded, and if you’re flying east to west, you won’t lose much time, and can still enjoy the holiday with your loved ones after you land.”

BATTLE STRESS LIKE THE STOICS:
“I’ve been practicing Stoicism and meditation for a few years, which has vastly helped me remain calm during a hectic travel schedule. I often listen to audiobooks about Stoic philosophy that talk about accepting when things go wrong, which is often the case with air travel these days,” she says. In addition, Horne practices mindfulness and meditation. “Getting upset doesn’t change the reality of the situation, and there are lots of mindfulness playlists that can make airport chaos a bit more manageable.”

LEE ABBAMONTE 

Lee Abbamonte is an entrepreneur and multimedia travel personality who has, quite literally, been to every country on Earth (including the North and South Poles.) He was the youngest person to do so on record, and is inspiring advocate for travel in all its forms.

BE THE EARLY BIRD: “Book early flights,” says Abbamonte. “That way, even if flights are re-routed, canceled, or delayed, “you’re much more likely to still get to your destination on the intended day.”

REBOOK DIRECTLY: If your flight does get canceled, “rebook yourself on the airlines’s app as soon as possible,” he says. “Don’t wait in line at the airport or call customer service, as it’ll take forever, and the good flights will be full.”

KRISTA SIMMONS

It’s me, the travel editor here at Sunset. You may recognize my name from our awesome staff newsletters or from the content here at the travel section. Be sure to give us a follow on Insta, too!

KEEP IT COOL: We’re in the middle of a punishing heat wave here in SoCal, and my mind is on staying cool this weekend. Be sure to bring extra water wherever you’re headed, and hike like the marathoners do and veer toward the shade on the trail whenever you can. If you’re lucky enough to be heading to the river, a little tip I learned back in the day is tucking your beer or sparkling water can beneath rocks under the water to keep them cold. It’s nature’s ice chest! Just don’t forget to pack it out when you’re done.

TAKE THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED: Our travel experts above have it right when it comes to getting up early to beat the crowds on the road. I’d add that it can be fun to take an entirely different route altogether. For instance, I’m heading up to Cuyama Buckhorn this weekend, and I’ll be taking Highway 33 to avoid the wildfire closures on the 5 and subsequent backups on the 101. (I am totally outing myself as one of “The Californians,” aren’t I?) While it may take a bit longer to get there, I’m looking forward to exploring the vistas through Ojai and Los Padres National Forest.

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