Between shopping for gifts, prepping meals big enough for an army, and navigating the sometimes-dangerous waters of family chatter, holiday travel can feel like just another hassle. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to make sure your holiday trip isn’t a burden (it might even be fun!). Keep these tips in mind to ensure a smooth journey.
1. Plan your route ahead of time
It doesn’t matter if you’re traveling by plane, train, or automobile: all travel is busy during the holidays. With that in mind, make sure to plan your travel route and share it with your “co-pilot” ahead of time.
If you’re taking to the highway this holiday season, gas up the car the night before you leave. Make sure you’re equipped with a First Aid kit, blanket, and tools to change a flat. When you get on the road, use a app like Waze to stay updated on the latest traffic conditions. And snacks — don’t forget the snacks.
Still driving, but just to the airport? Remember that parking ramps and lots fill up quickly on the busiest travel days of the year. For peace of mind, reserve a parking spot in a lot with a shuttle to the terminal.
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2. Invest in small comforts
Travel can be downright uncomfortable, especially when you’re on a plane or in a car for hours on end. To make traveling more bearable, invest in some small comforts!
For example, a travel pillow and sleep mask can be life-savers. You might think you look a little silly snuggling up with a travel pillow, but you’ll get the last laugh when you’re the only one who’s well rested at the end of the trip! Compression socks can also make a long flight more comfortable, especially for those prone to poor circulation.
And this might go without saying, but a great pair of noise-canceling headphones is one of the best investments you can make for traveling. They’ll drown out Christmas music blaring out of car speakers, crying babies on planes, and general chatter you’d rather not be privy to. Bonus: they also work well when you’re trying to fall asleep in an unfamiliar (and noisy) location.
3. Pack light
The general rule of thumb for holiday travel is to pack light. Chances are you already have a dish to pass and presents in tow – no need to take up extra space with tons of luggage. Plus, you’re going to have more things to carry on your way back!
For maximum space efficiency, try rolling your clothes, using compression bags, switching out full-size toiletries for travel size, and stuffing smaller items in your extra shoes. But your best friend will be a checklist – never pack what you don’t need!
Whether you’re driving, flying, or otherwise, pack a smaller bag with all of the essentials you want in arms reach: medicine, books, tablets, and snacks. If you’re flying this holiday season, it’s prudent to only take a carry-on.
4. Be prepared
If there’s one master tip for hassle-free holiday travel, it’s this: be prepared for heavy traffic, unruly weather, crowds, lines, delays, families taking their annual trip, and anything else the holiday season might throw at you. It’s better to go in with the attitude that you’re prepared for everything than to be surprised or disappointed when things go awry.
Get through holiday travel snafus with your go-to “cooling down technique.” Try listening to calming music, taking a moment to breathe, watching an episode of a funny TV show, or reading a couple chapters of a book you don’t want to put down. Just taking a moment to retreat into your own world can do wonders when you’re overwhelmed with the hustle of holiday travel.
And just like in any other situation, treat others with respect — including people working hard to make your holiday travel easier! Even just a smile to a stranger in the gas station or airport can make their day.