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Holiday travel survival guide

From extra-long lines to extra-long rides, traveling during the holidays can be stressful. We help take the edge off with our top seasonal travel tips. No matter where you’re going or how you’re getting there, holiday travel can be easier than you think if you factor in a few important rules.

Woman checking in at airport

Airplane ticketBook ahead

The holidays are not the time for last minute planning. If you have somewhere you need to be or want to go, make sure you sort out the details now — rent a car if you need one, book hotel rooms and any other transportation. There’s nothing worse than finding out the place you wanted to stay is booked up, or you have to scramble to get somewhere because the train or bus is sold out. Book everything now to avoid hassles, long lines and most importantly — stress.

Practice patience

As much as you plan ahead and make sure everything you need is packed well in advance (and then double and triple checked) things can — and often do — go wrong around the holidays. With so many people traveling, there are bound to be delays and other frustrating issues that arise. For this, you need to practice patience. When something out of your control happens (luggage gets lost, your flight is delayed, the hotel lost your reservation), avoid causing more stress by flying off the handle. Take a deep breath, count to 10, get some fresh air and then work on finding a solution. The calmer you are in any travel situation, the smoother things will go.

Be prepared

Driving to your sister’s new house (in a new city) for Christmas dinner? Make sure you know exactly how to get there. Have to rush between flights in an airport you’ve never been to? Make sure to find out exactly where you’ll have to go to get to your departing gate so you don’t lose time running around in a panic. Taking holiday gifts to your parent’s house? Make sure they’re packed safely and that you don’t forget anything important. Traveling anytime of year can be stressful, but add in the chaotic holiday season, and it’s best to be even more prepared than usual.

Pack distractions

Whether you’re stuck on the tarmac before a flight, in a traffic jam enroute to grandma’s or find out you have an extra few hours to kill at the airport due to a delay, distractions can minimize stress and take some of the frustration out of travel-related issues. If you have kids, make sure you are well-stocked with a small backpack full of age-appropriate games, coloring books, toys and other items that will keep little ones busy. Otherwise, think music, e-readers, puzzle books (crosswords, Sudoku) and anything else that will keep your mind off delays or other situations beyond your control.

Stay fueled up

There’s nothing worse than navigating an airport, dealing with a surly ticket agent or trying to keep kids quiet as you board on an empty stomach. No matter where you go or how you’ll be traveling this holiday, don’t let yourself get hungry or thirsty. That will just ensure any stressful situation feels even more volatile. Whereas, if you’re eating healthy snacks every couple of hours (nuts, fruit, granola bar) to keep your energy up and drinking plenty of water, you’ll be much better able to stay calm no matter where you are or what’s happening around you.

Think about comfort

While you might be itching to wear your new riding boots, you’ll wish you were wearing running shoes or simple slip-ons as you run through the airport. The same goes for any other items of clothing that look better than they feel. Travel is all about comfort, whether you’ll be in a car for six hours or sitting on a plane. Think leggings and long sweaters, layers to help with the changing temperatures in-flight, shoes you can easily slip on and off and comfort items like ear plugs and eye masks for long flights.

Tell us

What is your best stress-lowering travel tip? Share in the comments below!

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