9 Tips to Make Your Christmas Travel Less Stressful
The holidays are the busiest time of the year for long-distance travel. Unfortunately, more people traveling at the same time also means that it is the most expensive, hectic and stressful time. But, spending the holidays with family is enough of an incentive for millions to brave harsh winter weather conditions and overcrowded airports and roads.
Whether you are traveling to spend time with your family or to escape the holidays, these 9 tips can help make your domestic and international travel smoother.
1. Do your research.
The holiday season is the one time of year that you can always expect fare prices to be higher than normal while ticket availability is lower. Luckily, planning ahead can save you from incurring outrageous travel costs and fees.
There are several flight search engines that you can use to find the best deals within a time range. For instance, when you use Google Flights, you can select your destination, range of dates, times of day, number of stops and more to find the best deal. FareCompare is similar with an extra focus on finding the best price.
2. Organize and plan ahead.
Of course, there is more to holiday travel than simply booking tickets. If not staying with family, you probably need to arrange accommodations and transport. You can create, save and share your travel itinerary with an app like TripIt. Another benefit to using the mobile app for your itinerary is that you can connect it right to your calendar. It will add the details, so that you don’t mix up or miss times.
You can even schedule a ride from the airport, bus or train terminal up to 30 days in advance with Uber’s Schedule My Ride feature. But, you’ll have to check and make sure that the app is available at your destination. If you have booked accommodations, make sure to confirm with the owner or manager. Store the address, phone and other contact details in your phone and in another location. In case you lose your phone or it dies, you’ll have a backup with all the information that you need.
3. Look for early flights.
In general, early is the rule of thumb for stress-free travel. Getting to the airport at least three hours early makes security less stressful. Booking your tickets early eliminates the worry of not getting the dates, seating and other preferences that you want. Leaving a few days early can create a cushion of space in case you need to make flight changes due to weather or other last-minute issues.
Although most people don’t love getting up before dawn and making their way through an airport, early flights can be a much better alternative during the holidays. Statistically, early flights tend to leave on time. They may even be less packed, because many would rather sleep in than travel early. Another consideration besides flight time is the day. Look for off-peak days, in which fewer people are likely to travel. Usually, it is in the middle of the week.
4. Stay hydrated and pack snacks.
When you are rushing to stay on schedule and catch any connections, you may not have time to stop for food. However, it is important to make sure that you take care of your body, which means staying hydrated and fed. Pack water and light-weight but filling snacks that won’t get crushed in your bag. Examples of snacks that keep well during travel are:
- Trail mix
- Granola bars
- Dried fruit
- Almonds and other nuts
Travel can be exhausting even during the off-season. Granola, nuts and trail mix are also great because they can help restore your energy. If traveling by plane, you can pack a water bottle, but be absolutely sure to empty its contents before reaching security. No one wants get stopped by security, go back through, empty their bottle, and wait in line to do the process all over again. Once through, fill it up before your flight.
5. Check the weather.
One of the downsides of traveling during the holiday season is the poor weather. In most parts of the world, cold temperatures, wind chill and snow can delay and alter your plans. Try to check the weather before booking your ticket and several times after, as the travel date approaches. Sometimes, airlines may allow you to change your flights at a minimal cost if there is a big snowstorm or other weather crisis expected.
6. Use mobile technology and apps.
There are tons of apps and devices specifically designed to make travel easier and in some cases, cheaper. Airlines usually have their own mobile apps that allow you to check-in and give you real-time updates on flight schedules and other details. Make sure to download it, and if possible, get the mobile version of your ticket.
When you are running around gift shopping, booking tickets and prepping for the holidays, it is easy to forget to pack an essential in your luggage. Apps like Travel List and TripList, can help you create packing lists and set reminders, so that you don’t leave anything important behind, like a wireless charger for your mobile devices.
7. Pack light.
Although you don’t want to forget to pack something critical like your phone, medicine or passport, don’t overpack. During the holidays flights, buses and other travel options are often packed. Therefore, the less luggage you have, the easier it is to get around. Weigh your luggage beforehand to make sure that it doesn’t exceed the weight limit. Try to pack a light carry-on.
If you have presents, try to send them in the mail several weeks beforehand if it is possible. If you do, you won’t have to worry about waiting for them at baggage pickup or getting lost or damaged in transit. Sending packages internationally can be pricey but may cost you less money and worry than carrying them with you.
8. Create a calming music playlist.
Even with preparation and planning, holiday travel can still be stressful at times. Developing easy ways that help you manage and alleviate stress are crucial. Research has found that music can impact a person’s emotions. Certain genres like classical and other relaxing sounds can alleviate stress. Compile a playlist of soothing music and pack some headphones. Listening to it while you travel can help you pull through difficult situations and environments.
9. Stay connected.
It is important to be able to communicate with friends and family that you are meeting up with for the holidays. There are also apps that help you stay in touch with your loved ones. Messaging apps like WhatsApp, which enables location-sharing and group communication, can make it easier to update others on your estimated time of arrival, current location, travel delays and other vital information.
However, relying on technology to stay in touch can be tricky when you are traveling internationally. Cell phone service can be spotty and not to mention, data roaming charges can be ridiculously expensive. Also, many airports either don’t have WiFi at all or it is so unreliable that you can’t connect. Ones that do may be overloaded by all of the other holiday travelers trying to connect, so it is wise to have your own.