Holiday travel can be exciting and fun, but it can also be extremely stressful. Between gifts in the luggage, kids, winter weather, crowded airports, and traffic jams, holiday travel can make even the most seasoned traveler anxious. Following are some tips to help reduce your holiday travel-related stress.
You can't control many aspects of holiday travel such as the winter weather, crowded airports, traffic-packed highways, and unexpected delays. But you can control the way you react to these situations. Accept that they will happen and have a plan to stay calm when they do and you will feel less stressed.
Always allow extra time when traveling, whether it's the holidays or not – but especially during the holidays! You can expect larger crowds and more people on heavily-travelled days such as the day before Thanksgiving in the U.S. Remember that every aspect of travel will take longer, from driving on the crowded highways or getting cabs, finding airport parking, to airline check-in, and airport security lines. Adults who are used to traveling for business may find that traveling with the kids can also slow the process. Giving yourself more time than usual so you have a cushion of extra time to allow for delays helps prevent stress.
Have a backup plan in case anything goes wrong. Despite your best planning, sometimes you may encounter the unexpected full airport parking lot, or snowstorm. Check for flight delays, traffic jams, and parking reports. Your backup plan may include leaving earlier, taking a different route, using other transportation.
During peak holiday travel times, the overhead bins may be full with carry-on luggage. It can often be much easier to simply check your bags. You won't have to lug your carry-on during a layover, and managing extra bags and kids makes for more of a hassle. Only take what you need on the plane in a small tote and check the rest for more freedom of movement and less stress.
Traveling with children requires some planning ahead to reduce stress for parents, children, and other travelers nearby! Plan to have plenty of things to amuse and distract your children as you travel. Let kids burn up some energy at the airport by helping pull small suitcases or walking around. Explain to children ahead of time what the airline security and boarding process will be so they are not scared. Bring snacks and water so no one gets cranky because they are hungry (even if the airline serves food, the kids may not like it, so have your own snacks you know they will eat). For long drives, stop every hour or two to stretch and break up the distance. Have some "surprise" toys or treats the children don't know about to hand out during travel. An occupied and distracted child is less likely to be stressed and anxious, and the more calm they are, the happier the parents will be!
Dressing in layers is helpful when traveling. Staying comfortable will help you feel more relaxed. It may be cold outside and warm in the car. The airport or plane may be too cold or hot. Having layers means you can add or remove as needed for comfort. Remember a change of clothes for toddlers or infants as they may spill food or get sick. If you need to be dressed up at your final destination, travel in comfortable clothes and stop at a rest area or change in a restroom just before you reach your final destination.
If you have found holiday travel stressful in the past, planning ahead can help relieve anxiety for next year. Perhaps you may want to change destinations, offer to host for the holidays at your own home so people can come to you, or avoid holiday travel altogether. If you decide not to go to the family gathering that is a 3-hour flight away, tell everyone far in advance so no one is disappointed last-minute. If you must travel during the holidays, make reservations months in advance to find the best flights for your schedule.
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- Mayo Clinic/Oregon State University: "Stress: Win Control Over the Stress in Your Life."
- University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC): "Business Travel Stress-Busters."
- Transportation Security Administration (TSA): "Traveling with Children."