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No Nonsense Tips for Surviving the Holiday Travel Crush

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Traveling during the holidays – MOST of us are obligated to do it (and if you don’t have to get on a plane sometime in November or December, consider yourself very lucky). As if spending hours packed like sardines into an airplane, train, or bus wasn’t stressful in itself, the holiday season adds an extra layer of horribleness with its long lines, hurried passengers, and bad weather. (Every year I tell my husband we are spending the following Christmas in Hawaii. For some reason it hasn’t happened yet.) If you don’t want to find yourself in a Planes, Trains, and Automobiles-esque situation, heed these tips for surviving the holiday travel crush:

Tip #1: Create checklists

I am a last minute packer. I always have the best of intentions regarding getting myself organized early on so I’m not stress-packing at the last minute, but that’s what inevitably always ends up happening. I’m just that type of person. The thing that has saved me time and again is creating checklists. Actually, creating one master checklist and then printing it out each time I take a trip. Having a checklist helps me remember to pack both my contacts AND contact solution (you kinda need both) and also deodorant (mid-flight is a horrible time to realize you forgot yours and need it very badly). 

Tip #2: Make extra copies of your ID, credit cards, and insurance information

And keep these extra copies in your carry-on. If your handbag or wallet gets stolen or misplaced – both of which can easily happen when among crazy crowds – you’ll at least still have all your important information. Make sure you also copy or photograph the back of your credit card, too, so you have their phone number handy if your card gets stolen or compromised. (Tip within a tip: Add this task to your checklist.)

Tip #3: Do not pack wrapped gifts

You would think everyone knows this already, right? But they don’t. And if you are “randomly chosen,” you may have to unwrap those gifts and repack everything, causing delays for everyone in line. Instead, pack the gifts, tape, and some wrapping paper pre-cut to the size of the gift (or better yet, use gift bags and tissue paper – no tape or scissors needed). If you have a long wait before your flight leaves, you can spend that time wrapping gifts once you pass through security. Better yet, ship all your gifts to the recipient ahead of time, or if you’re buying gifts online, have the company ship them directly to the recipient (put your name somewhere in the address so the recipient knows not to open the box). 

Tip #4: Pad your timeline

Always, always, always give yourself extra time! Aim to be everywhere 30 minutes earlier than you actually need to arrive. If you’re lucky, you’ll leave right on time. At worst, you’ll arrive to your destination super early and you don’t be panicked or stressed. Also, keep an eye on your flight times via the airline’s app (signing up for text message alerts is an extra smart idea), and follow both your airline and airport via Twitter for potential information that may affect your flight. 

Tip #5: Eat wisely

I know, that airport pizza looks good, doesn’t it? And I’m a huge fan of stress eating. But you know what’s worse than stressful holiday travel? Experiencing stressful holiday travel with a tummy ache. Pack some snacks, like power bars or almonds or pretzels (obviously no liquids allowed past airport security), and avoid sugary coffee drinks and sodas that could potentially make you cranky later on. 

Tip #6: Plan ahead for delays

Obviously nobody wants to THINK about airplane delays, whether it’s a couple hours or a couple days. But, because delays are common during the holidays, there are a few easy things you can do to plan ahead. First, pack a change of clothes (including underthings) and important medications in your carry-on. If you find yourself stuck overnight in the airport, you’ll be so happy to have them. Second, if it’s early enough in December, bring your holiday cards, address book, and stamps with you. You can address and stamp your cards while waiting at the airport or while on the plane. (If it’s right before the holidays, consider sending “Happy New Years” cards instead. I have a friend who does this because she’s fully aware she can’t get her act together before Christmas. It’s kind of genius.) Finally, don’t forget some extra entertainment. Bring a book, an external phone/tablet charger, and a deck of cards or a small game like Bananagrams.

Tip #7: Travel on “non-peak” days if possible

Which I know for most people, it’s not. But if you can avoid the airport during the weekends before and after Christmas Day, and obviously the Wednesday before and the Sunday after Thanksgiving, you’ll have a much less stressful travel experience. But these days are busy travel days for a weekend and I understand that. That’s why I put this tip towards the end. (But seriously, travel on non-peak days if possible.)

Tip #8: Make an effort to smile

Those airline, bus line, and train depot employees probably haven’t seen a smile or heard a “thank you” all day. Start your conversations with a smile and a compliment and you’ll likely get better service. Besides, studies show smiling increases our own happiness, and who couldn’t use a little extra happiness during holiday traveling? 

Are you traveling this holiday season? What tips would you add to this list? 

Image source: Unsplash