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HOLIDAY PREP: A little travel zen can go a long way in reducing holiday stress before you even leave home. Expect delays, snafus, traffic jams, full airport parking lots and crowds. Contemplate the following, gleaned from many earthly sources:

- Choose not to fly on Dec. 22 and Jan. 2, which the Air Transport Association expects will be the season's most heavily traveled days. Dec. 21 and 23 and Jan. 3 will be busy, too.- Likewise, try to avoid the top 10 busiest airports in the country: Chicago's O'Hare, Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Atlanta, San Francisco, Denver's Stapleton, New York's JFK, Miami, New Jersey's Newark and Detroit's Wayne County Metropolitan.

- Factor in more time for everything from getting down to the gate to waiting in line for a rental car. Bring a book, tape player or some work.

- Take mass transportation wherever possible. Airports with rail stops inside or close by include: Atlanta, Boston, O'Hare, Cleveland, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Oakland and National in Washington, D.C.

- Make sure you have a car rental reservation and call if you're arriving late, so the agency won't give the car to someone else.

- Put ID tags on the outside and inside of each bag. Keep all valuables and medicines with you. Limit carry-ons to the two alloted. Be careful when opening overstuffed overhead bins.

- Eat a light meal before you go - you might end up waiting on the runway to take off for hours. Bring snacks. Drink water and juices before and during a flight to prevent dehydration.

- And, above all else: Look at your ticket when you get it. Make sure you have the right flight and time. And ask your college-age kids to do the same. One mother with a premonition one year called her son at 10 a.m. the day before Christmas only to find him in his dorm room in Boulder, Colo., instead of on his way to Denver to catch his noon flight. He thought the plane left at 3 p.m. He was still sleeping.


These booklets full of helpful travel hints are the best of the month:

- The American Kennel Club has published "Canine Travel Tips" for the 64 million people who, the club estimates, will be taking their pets on vacation during the holidays.

Among their most helpful suggestions:

If traveling by plane, you must provide a certificate of health from your vet.

To reduce motion sickness, feed your dog just one-third his normal amount the day of travel.

Don't allow your dog to put his head out the car window; it may cause ear or eye injuries.

The booklet offers tips for traveling by plane, car, train and on international travel, plus how to find a pet-friendly hotel.

For a free copy, write to: AKC, 5580 Centerview Drive, Raleigh, N.C. 27606 or call (919) 233-9767.

Parents and grandparents might want a copy of Mary Lee Lane's "Flying With Baby" (Third Street Press, $5.95).

Lane is a flight attendant and mother of two, so she's worked both sides of the aisle. Her book offers suggestions on where to sit, the best time of day to fly, etc.

For a copy, send $6.95 to Third Street Press, Box 261250, Littleton, Colo. 80126-1250. For Visa or Mastercard orders, call (303) 595-5959.