Planning to travel during the holidays? You’re not alone — roughly 107 million Americans have plans to travel 50 miles or more in the December 23–January 1 time frame. About 90% of that travel is on the road, but no matter the travel medium, holiday travel can be synonymous with a major headache. The good news? It doesn’t have to be.
Maybe you learned a few lessons after traveling for Thanksgiving, but either way, here are some tips that should make your upcoming travel experience a little more jolly:
Avoid peak days and times. Because Christmas and New Year’s Day fall on a different week day every year, consider what days will be popular for travel (the day before and after Christmas, for example). If possible, adjust your travel plans by a day or two so you can avoid long lines and higher prices. As for time of day, it’s wise to get going early in the morning or late at night to avoid midday traffic or crowds.
Give yourself extra time. Don’t set yourself up for a miserable trip by failing to incorporate some buffer time. Things often take longer than you expect, from weather delays to arguments between your kids. Save yourself some heartache by allowing more time than you think you need.
Have a Plan B. In a perfect world, our experiences would pan out exactly as planned. Reality often proves otherwise, so plan an alternate route for the road or alternate flight in case something goes awry. When you’ve given thought to it ahead of time, it’ll be much easier to roll with the punches.
Take advantage of your phone. Before your leave for your trip, download helpful apps (such as GateGuru or GasBuddy) to get flight status updates and the best gas prices along your route. It’s also smart to save all helpful numbers on your phone, such as your hotel, airline, rental car agency, credit card company and friends/family members waiting at your destination.
Bring provisions, but don’t overpack. Items like ear plugs, ear buds, reading material, car-friendly games, snacks and drinks are all fantastic for easing the travel experience, especially if you have kids. If you’re flying, however, pack light if possible to avoid checked baggage. Consider what items you could borrow or purchase once you arrive and pack only what you really need.
Be smart about gifts. They’re a big part of the holidays, right? Ship them to your destination in advance or choose to have them delivered there from the get-go. If you do need to bring them, try to avoid large or breakable items, and if you’re flying, keep them unwrapped, as security personnel may need to inspect their contents. If you insist on being more prepared, gift bags are much easier to disassemble and assemble again than packages with gift wrapping.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. Do all you can ahead of time, like charging your phone and filling your car with gas, but after that, don’t get upset if something goes wrong. Be flexible and keep things in perspective. A traveling blunder can turn into a fun family story or simply remind you about what’s most important — the holidays are meant for celebrating, after all.
Wherever your travels take you, we hope you’re able to enjoy quality time with those you love!