The holidays are supposed to be fun and relaxing, but if you find yourself traveling during the holiday season, you can easily find yourself experiencing anxiety and stress instead. The key to enjoying your travels this holiday season is careful planning. Rethinking some of the major stressors of holiday travels can help you prevent them and instead get the most out of your holidays.
Tip 1: Book Your Flights Now
One of the major stressors to traveling during the holidays is financial. Unfortunately, the later you wait to purchase your tickets, the higher the ticket prices will rise. Researching and booking your flights sooner can take the stress off of not knowing what you’re doing. It can also alleviate financial stresses by allowing you to commit to the price of the tickets rather than gambling with how much you’re going to end up spending on tickets.
Tip 2: Travel During Off Days
Certain days—such as the day before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after Thanksgiving—are peak travel days when the vast majority of families are booking their tickets. Making some room in your schedule so that you don’t have to travel during these high-traffic days can help you avoid overbooked planes and insane traffic jams on the interstate. Additionally, planning to arrive at your location a day or two before you need to be there can alleviate pressure if there’s a snowstorm on your scheduled departure date, for example, and you have to find another flight. No one wants to miss the actual holidays with their families. Giving yourself a few days of cushion can ensure that you don’t find yourself in that position.
Tip 3: Travel During Off Times of Day
Not eager to leave your house at 3 in the morning? Neither is anyone else, which is why the earliest flights in the morning and latest flights at night often have the fewest passengers. Booking a flight at one of these off times can reduce the congestion you meet in the airport. Even better, the earliest flights in the day rarely have delays.
Tip 4: Pad Your Travel Days with Extra Time
Know that everything is going to take extra time during the holidays and plan your trips accordingly. Give yourself extra time to drive to and from the airport, for example, in case there’s an accident on the road or inclement weather sweeps in unexpectedly. Also plan to arrive at the airport at least three hours before your plane departs so that you aren’t rushing to get through customs, and plan longer layovers so that you’re not racing through holiday traffic to try to get from one plane to another. Though you may not love the idea of spending extra time in the airport, ultimately that will be less stressful than missing your flight and having that impact your holiday.
Tip 5: Keep Your Paperwork Accessible
Security checkpoints take a long time to get through as it is, so you definitely don’t want to be the guy holding the line up because you can’t find your boarding pass. On the day of your holiday travels, keep all necessary paperwork—including your passport, your boarding passes, and any emergency cash—in an easy-to-access location such as a passport cover in the pocket of your jacket or an outer pocket of your carry-on.
Tip 6: Research the Airport Terminals
Some airport terminals are large, sprawling expanses that could outpace any mall, while others are so small, you’ll be lucky to find a sandwich there. After you book your flights, do some research into the airports you’ll be going to. This can help you plan out your meals for the day and ensure you pack food if you need to for certain legs of your travels. It can also direct you to amenities you might not have known existed. A long layover won’t seem so stressful if you know you can go get a pedicure, for example, of if you know there’s a gym you can squeeze in a workout at.
Tip 7: Find Ways to Be Productive While Traveling
Often, we think of traveling days as lost days during vacations, but they don’t have to be. Since you’re unlikely to be truly relaxed or comfortable while traveling, you’re better off finding ways to be productive while traveling so that you can really let yourself enjoy any time you have on the ground. If you’re bringing work with you on your holiday, consider doing it on your flight out or during your layover instead of saving it for evenings you’d be better off spending with the family. It can also be a great time to help your kids with their holiday homework, or to work through that book you’ve been meaning to read. Finding ways to be productive during travel days can ensure that your mind stays sharp while you’re traveling and that you feel less frustrated when you land by the amount of time you lost out on. It can also prime you to be able to make the most out of the holiday time you do have.
Tip 8: Ship Gifts Ahead of Time
Packing gifts and bringing them with you takes up space and weight in your luggage and will leave you in an uncomfortable position if your luggage gets misplaced en route. Instead, consider either shipping your gifts to your destination or making your purchases online and having them sent to your destination to begin with. Just be sure to order early enough that they will arrive in time for the holiday. If you do decide to pack gifts with you, don’t wrap them as they are likely to be unwrapped by airport security. Instead, pack gift bags that fold down flat so that you can wrap the gifts quickly when you arrive at your destination.