The holidays are a time for family and friends – and for many people, that means travel. Whether it’s by plane, car, or even train, millions of folks make trips in just a few months time. With numbers like that, it’s likely that you are planning at least one trip between November and mid-January, too!
If you regularly travel during the holidays, then you already know how hectic and stressful it can be under regular circumstances. But holiday travel this year might be even more chaotic than in years past. There are more people than ever planning to travel, as it seems like everyone is trying to make up for lost time during the pandemic. Plus, we’ve been seeing a ton of flight delays and cancellations this year. Just last week, FlightAware listed 629 cancelled flights, according to Forbes Advisor.
You don’t have to ditch the holiday travel plans to avoid stress and anxiety. You won’t be able to avoid the insanity, of course, but you can set yourself up for successful, stress-free travel. This will hopefully mean arriving at your destination feeling a little less frazzled, so you can enjoy your time with friends and family.
Check out these tips for navigating holiday travel with less stress!
Give Yourself Extra Time
This is the advice that I give travelers every chance I get. Expect the unexpected and allot yourself extra time. Never cut it close! If you’re flying, you should budget extra time to get to the airport and extra time in the airport before boarding.
If you are driving to your destination, plan extra time in the event of traffic, extra pit stops, and other unforeseen changes that could make your drive take longer. That extra cushion of time can go a long way in cutting down on stress and making your traveling a little more pleasant. No one likes rushing around!
Avoid Peak Travel Days
Throughout the year, peak travel times for flying are usually Monday mornings and Friday afternoons. But during the holidays, those peak times shift. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday following it are jam-packed with travelers; this applies to both traffic on the road and travelers catching flights. And in December, the busiest travel dates are the two days before Christmas Eve and then the two days following Christmas Day. When possible, avoid traveling on these days. It will be much less hectic.
Reserve Airport Parking
With all those people traveling at the same time, it’s easy to assume that there will be a lot of people looking for parking at the airport. Lots will be full, which means you’ll get stuck in an annex lot somewhere and unexpectedly have to catch a shuttle – which eats up even more time.
To avoid this extra headache, reserve airport parking in advance. You will know exactly where to go when you arrive and you can plan accordingly for any shuttles involved. Things will be a lot less stressful when you know what to expect! Plus, you don’t have to fight other travelers for parking spaces.
Download the Apps
There really is an app for everything, so you can bet there are apps that will help make your trip a little less stressful. Airlines have apps that can send you notifications concerning gate changes, delays, and more. It will save you a lot of headaches to get this information as it happens.
And for traveling by car, there are plenty of apps for tracking accidents, traffic jams, and road construction. Waze is a favorite app of mine, and I actually use it a lot. It has saved me countless hours by notifying me before I get stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Ship Those Gifts
Traveling to see friends and family for the holidays usually also involves hauling gifts. Especially when flying, all those gifts can turn into quite the nuisance. Wrapping obscures what’s inside, which means red flags from TSA. Do you really want them to eat up precious time and undo all your wrapping jobs? Plus, extra packages take up precious luggage space. To skip this stress altogether, just ship the packages to your final destination. Or you could really lighten your load by opting for gift cards and cash instead.
Avoid Checked Baggage When Possible
It isn’t always possible for everyone, but avoiding checking luggage can relieve a ton of stress and make traveling so much smoother. First and foremost, you don’t have to pay the extra fees! But checked luggage can possibly disappear, get lost, or arrive at your destination late. Plus, no checked luggage means the ability to quickly shift gears if needed. If your flight gets canceled, you won’t have to track down your luggage (or potentially lose it!) before finding a different flight.