December is the one of the busiest times of the year for air travel in South Africa as millions make their way through the country’s airports.
One of the busiest periods will be December 16 to 20 when most South Africans are expected to make their way to their Christmas destinations. Flight Centre Travel Group, has compiled a “Guide to Navigating South Africa’s Airports During The Festive Season”.

Here’s what to do – and what not to do – for stress-free travel this festive season:

1. Make sure your passport is valid for up to six months and has two blank pages if you are travelling abroad.

2. Ensure you have the correct visas for travel, inclusive of transits. Also ensure you have all the necessary documentation for your travel, including vouchers if applicable.

3. If you are travelling abroad with a minor child/ren (children under 18), ensure that you have their unabridged birth certificate/s, which lists the details of both parents. If you are travelling alone with a minor child/ren, you also need consent in the form of an affidavit (not more than three months old) from the other parent, authorising you to enter and depart from South Africa with the minor child/ren. If you’re travelling locally with minors, make sure you are in possession of their birth certificates or identity documents (IDs)

4. Check in online 24 hours before your flight so you can select your seat and buy yourself some time in case you are delayed. Ensure that you arrive at the airport three hours prior to the departure of your international flight, as stipulated. Allow two hours in advance for a domestic flight. Make your way directly to the check-in counter when you arrive in case there are long queues or computer-system delays.

5. Ensure that your name on your ticket is spelled correctly. You will not be allowed to board the flight if it is incorrect.

6. If you’ve made a flight booking online, make sure you have the credit card you used to pay for your ticket in your possession. If someone else paid for your flight, ensure that you have a copy of the credit card used to pay for the booking.

7. Don’t forget to carry identification if you are flying locally. Either an ID document or a driver’s licence will suffice, but an ID document is preferable.

8. Ensure that your cabin baggage/hand luggage is not too heavy or bulky. You are allowed one bag (weighing not more than 7kg and with maximum dimensions of 56cm x 36cm x 23cm), plus one slimline laptop bag/handbag per passenger. Hand-baggage limits are often strictly enforced during peak times and on packed flights.

9. Do not carry any liquids/creams exceeding 100ml (including bottled water) in your hand luggage if you are taking an international flight, as these will be confiscated.

10. Do not carry any sharp objects (including nail files, nail clippers and knives) in your hand luggage/cabin baggage as these will be confiscated

11. Pack a change of clothing, underwear and a toothbrush in your hand luggage in case your checked baggage goes missing or is delayed. Also carry a change of warm clothing in your hand luggage (hat, coat, gloves) if you are travelling to the northern hemisphere.

12. Tie a ribbon or colourful tag to your luggage for easy identification on the baggage carousel.

13. Consider using the Gautrain if you’re in Joburg as traffic is likely to be congested en route to and at the airport, which may cause delays. Alternatively, take a taxi, have a friend drop you off or park in the long-stay car park. If you choose to park in the long-stay car park, allow for at least 30 minutes to make your way to the airport building. Make a note of your parking bay or take a picture in case you forget. Keep your parking ticket in a secure place.

14. NEVER leave your bags unattended at the airport. Unattended bags may spark a security lockdown that will disrupt check-in and may lead to you being detained for questioning and potentially missing your flight.

15. If you can, pass the time in one of the lounges. Customers of certain banks and holders of certain bank accounts are permitted free access to the slow lounge. If you are battling to entertain your children, take them up to the viewing deck, available at most airports, to watch the planes take off and land.

16. Take your laptop out while you’re in the queue for security scanning to avoid holding up other travellers. Also ensure that your laptop is charged as some airports ask you to switch it on to prove that it is a genuine laptop.

17. Make your way to your boarding gate as soon as possible. Delays are often caused by passengers who do not make it to the boarding gate on time, causing them to be bumped from the flight.

18. Make sure you have an international driving permit and your South African driver’s licence if you intend hiring a rental car abroad. You need your South African driver’s licence to hire a car locally. A valid credit card is required for car hire locally and abroad.

19. Carry a black pen in your cabin baggage/handbag/laptop bag. This will save time as you can fill in the immigration form/s while you stand in the immigration queue or while waiting to disembark.

20. If you do not want to incur exorbitant roaming costs while travelling abroad, check with your cellphone provider how to change your phone settings to either only allow SMS roaming or access-only Wi-Fi while overseas. You need to do this before you leave South Africa or you run the risk of incurring high costs.