Our best tips for stress-free holiday travel

Aside from shopping, wrapping, cooking, baking and hosting, one of the mainstays of the holiday season is travel. Whether you are going south to lie on a beach and escape the snow or visit far-flung friends and family, packing up and leaving town between now and the New Year is often inevitable. As fun and exciting as holiday travel can be, it can also be stressful. Rushing around, dealing with delays and trying to get from point A to point B with kids in tow can take its toll on even the most seasoned travelers. To help you avoid a holiday meltdown we put together our best tips and strategies for minimizing seasonal travel stress.

Woman traveling for Thanksgiving

Plan ahead

Whether you’re driving, flying or taking a bus or train, the best way to minimize holiday stress is to be prepared and plan ahead. The last thing you need is to fall behind and end up racing against the clock to get where you need to be.

Packing: Don’t wait until the last minute to pack. Everything you need should be in bags or at the very least organized and ready to be put into bags at least two days before your departure date. That way you aren’t rushing around the night before or the day of your trip stuffing things into a bag, hoping you don’t forget anything.

Important documents: Have tickets, passports (if you need them) and any other important documents ready and all in one place well before you need to leave. Having to frantically root through every desk drawer to find your passport is not a good start to your journey.

Maps and routes: If you’re driving, or flying in and then renting a car, research your route in advance and map it out so you know exactly where you’re going. Even if you have a GPS, print out the directions in case your device malfunctions or stops working. It’s also a good idea to have the phone number of where you’re going handy if you end up getting lost and needing directions.

Stay calm

Quick tip: Instead of exploding, take a few deep breaths, have a sip of water, go for a walk or go get a coffee to distract yourself and give yourself time to regroup.

Because the holidays are such a busy time of year for so many people, it’s inevitable that there will be bumps in the road or potential setbacks. Luggage gets lost, flights are delayed, traffic is at an all-time high — so the only way to respond when things go wrong is by staying calm. You may want to yell, you may want to tell the person behind the counter at the train station that she doesn’t know how to do her job and you might be tempted to launch into a tirade about how the three-hour delay you have just been imformed of will ensure that you miss your connecting flight — but none of this will help you. The calmer you stay, no matter what goes wrong, the easier your experience will be. This is especially true if you have kids in tow. They do not need to see you get stressed out because it will only end up getting them upset, which will likely cause your own anxiety level to rise further.

Dress for comfort

Whether you’ll be sitting in an airport, in a car or on a bus, make sure you’re dressed in something that will not add to your anxiety. Holiday travel is not the time to try out the new jeans you just bought or the cute shoes you’ve been meaning to wear. Instead, opt for comfort. You can always change out of your “travel clothes” when you reach your destination. Opt for anything stretchy and that won’t constrict movement in any way, especially if you’re going to be spending hours trapped in a car. Leggings with a long, slouchy sweater or your most worn-in jeans, T-shirt and hoodie are great choices for travel, as is flat footwear that slips on and off. Also think about traveling in layers in case you get too warm.

Keep your energy up

There is only so much fast food, plane food and junk food you can eat. These items (that might seem like a good idea at the time) will only make you sluggish and likely dehydrate you. Instead of opting for whatever seems fastest, eat for energy. Travel (especially during the holidays) can take a lot out of you, so eating in way that helps prevent you from getting tired or cranky is best.

Pack healthy snacks: Raw nuts, whole fruit, cut-up vegetables, low-sugar granola bars and trail mix (just add seeds, raisins and a handful of dark chocolate chips to your raw nuts) are all great choices for road trips.

Stay hydrated: Put down the coffee and soda and sip water instead so you don’t get dehydrated. The more dehydrated you get, the more tired you’re going to feel, which can affect not only your mood, but your ability to stay calm.

Choose food wisely: If you’re at the airport there are usually numerous options, many of which are fried or full of empty calories. Your best bets include sandwiches (minus the mayo), salads, fruit cups and soups.

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