6 Stress-Free Tips to Make Holiday Travel Enjoyable

Heading home for the holidays? So are more than 98 million other people this year, according to AAA. Whether you’re hitting the highway or heading to the airport, you’re one of the many travelers who will encounter traffic, crowds, and frustrating delays. Trying to travel even a few miles during the holiday season is incredibly taxing, and it quickly becomes stressful.

The average traveler spends four nights away from home between Christmas and New Year’s, the Bureau of Transportation reports. With so many travelers headed in different directions during this time of year, the high volume can lead to mistakes and delays if you don’t plan in advance.

When you travel to see your loved ones, you want to enjoy every minute without worries. Unfortunately, traffic, missed flights, and more can leave you panicked and stressed. Stop stress before it starts by following these tips.

1. Book Direct Flights

Nothing is more stressful than spending the holiday in an airport–but that’s what can happen if you book a flight with one or more stops. Airport crowds can mean you’re stuck in the security line for hours, flights can be overbooked, and it’s hard to get to your gate on time if you’re fighting crowds in an unfamiliar location.

Save yourself the last-minute panic and skip connecting flights. Book direct, and you’ll only have to deal with the busy airport when you leave and land. Flying direct lets you sit back and relax without worrying about switching planes or rushing from gate to gate. Tickets for direct flights may cost more, but the extra investment can prevent some serious headaches during the holiday rush.

2. Pack Light

One of the biggest frustrations of flying home for the holidays is luggage. Airlines frequently lose suitcases, especially during this busy season. There’s nothing more stressful than landing with only the clothes on your back. Eliminate the risk by bringing the maximum number of carry-on bags so all of your luggage stays with you.

Don’t forget about security rules either. You can’t pack wrapped gifts in your luggage, and you may end up having to tear open the presents you packed before you even get through security. Make it easier by leaving gifts out of your luggage.

3. Have a Travel Plan

Before you head out of the house, it’s important to make sure you’ve checked off the most important steps of your travel plan. Do you have the address programmed into your GPS? Have you researched the most traffic-heavy routes and times to avoid? Is your gas tank full? Preparing for these small things in advance will save you time once you hit the road.

Flying instead of driving? Check in for your flight before getting to the airport and pay for any checked bags. Print your boarding passes at home, or download them to your smartphone. Getting this done the day before you depart prevents standing in long lines at the airport.

4. Know Your Route

Sitting in traffic is incredibly stressful–you never know how late you’ll be, and there’s nothing to do but worry while you wait. Avoid terrible traffic by checking driving conditions days in advance.

Prior to leaving for the airport or driving to your destination, use a navigation app to research the driving conditions and any congestion. Many apps now use past travel trends to estimate how bad traffic will be. You may be able to skip the worst of the traffic by traveling on the holiday, or by leaving earlier or later than you planned to.

5. Bring Kid-Friendly Entertainment

Travel is always less stressful when the kids are occupied with something fun. Instead of growing frustrated by the whining and complaining in the backseat, prepare for the worst with a bag full of kid-friendly toys and games, or entertainment devices, meant for the car.

You can load audiobooks and playlists onto your smartphone, pack coloring supplies, or download movies and TV shows onto a tablet for in-car fun. You can also try playing games on the road to keep the youngest passengers engaged rather than grumpy.

6. Stay at a Hotel, Not Home

As much as you love your friends and family, staying under one roof can be incredibly stressful–especially if you’re in cramped quarters. Instead of spending your entire holiday stay in a state of distress, skip home and choose a hotel instead.

Staying at a hotel will give you your own space, a place to decompress and get away from the hectic activities of the holidays. You can return to the peace and quiet of your hotel any time you start to feel stressed, making it the perfect way to keep peace while everyone is in town.

Celebrate The Holidays With No Stress

It’s possible to spend quality time with your loved ones without stress. You just need to make everything easier by preparing your plans in advance and taking care to avoid the most frustrating aspects of travel. With these tips, you can arrive relaxed and ready to enjoy the holidays.