Traveling during the holidays is always an interesting adventure - primarily because holiday travel is generally packed stem to stern with families. If you build in a little flexibility during your travel and plan ahead, holiday travel can be a breeze.
If you're traveling via plane, get to your gate at least an hour before your flight. Why? Because during high travel times, you may have instances where flights are oversold. If you pay attention and your plans are flexible, you can offer your seat up to another traveler on an overbooked flight, and gain a spare round trip ticket to use on your next solo adventure.
Now, the risk in traveling by air during the holidays have a lot to do with delays and luggage.
If you have connecting flights to get to your destinations, be prepared to run through an airport. No matter how cute the pumps are you just bought, throw them in your bag and wear your sneakers while you're flying. Your feet will thank you for it, even if you don't end up with any delays and your connections are all timed perfectly.
Now with luggage - the risks are aplenty. Planning to take only carry on? Unless you have boarding privileges that allow you to get on the plane in the first groups, just plan that overhead bin space will be at a premium during holiday travel time. Soft-sided luggage that isn't crammed full - like a duffel bag - can save you loads of headaches in trying to make use of the overhead bin space, because you can make use of nook and cranny space that others can't. Or, if your trip is just a couple of days, have a "main bag" that fits under the seat in front of you and stow your smaller bag.
Even if you plan to take your bag on board, if the bin space fills up, you may have no choice but to check your bag. Always have a plan B - at least a day's worth of alternate clothing in a carry-on usually works. If you PLAN that your luggage may find an alternate route to your destination, then you won't be in dire straits if it does happen.
As soon as you note that your bag did not arrive with the luggage from your flight, notify the carrier immediately. Most carriers have an office in sight of the luggage carousels. They can usually track your bag. Sometimes, your bag may have arrived ahead of you - if another flight left the airport for your destination before the one you had to take. Other times, it just gets rerouted. Going to file a claim for lost luggage is not the time to lose it! Yes, it's an inconvenience, but the person standing behind the counter is not responsible for your bag's misdirection. They are simply the messenger. One time, when a bag of mine made it to Seattle when I was clearly in Los Angeles, I took a deep breath and was nicer to that carrier agent than I could have been to anyone else on the planet, and my bag arrived at my hotel with a thank you note before I had even woken up in the morning.
Air travel during the holidays doesn't have to be stressful. Understand the challenges that you may face, accept them, allow for flexibility, and your holiday travel will be a breeze.