There’s no denying that holiday travel can be majorly stressful.
It’s important to take care of your mental well-being during this chaotic time of year — which can help you actually enjoy the holidays — so we’ve compiled a list of simple tips for making holiday travel less stressful.
1. Embrace the Chaos
First things first: Before you step out the door, accept the fact that your trip over the river and through the woods might be less than idyllic.
“Go in with the mindset that there will be stress, and accept it as normal,” says Aimee Daramus, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist at Urban Balance. “That way you won’t be as upset when it happens.”
2. Pack Wisely
One easy way to avoid a travel nightmare is to anticipate potential snags — like lost luggage, car trouble, and holiday traffic jams — and pack for them.
Make sure you have extra clothes in your carry-on, a spare tire in your trunk, and a snack or two in your bag to keep you from getting hangry if you hit a delay along the way.
3. Budget for the Unexpected
You might not exactly be feeling flush with cash after all that holiday shopping, but try to set some money aside for holiday travel emergencies.
Once, I was traveling in Europe and my plane was delayed for several hours.
When we finally landed, everything was closed — which meant I couldn’t pick up my car rental until the next morning.
I ended up having to book a last-minute room at a nearby hotel.
If I hadn’t left some wiggle room in my travel budget for this type of thing, I would’ve been way more stressed.
4. Bring a Power Bank
There’s nothing worse than being in a sticky situation with a dying cell phone.
Don’t get stuck without an outlet — invest in a portable, rechargeable power bank (like this one) so you can charge your tech wherever you are.
Or buy a carry-on bag with a built-in charger so you don’t have to fight over the one working outlet at your airport gate.
Away Luggage makes carry on suitcases that come with a portable charger built in to the bag that can charge your phone up to four times!
5. Don’t Overlook Self-Care
“Everything looks worse when you’re hungry and dehydrated,” Daramus says.
It can be tempting to overdo it on your mom’s home cooking or stay out all night catching up with friends — but try to maintain a balance between sleep and play so you don’t end up feeling completely run down.
6. Find Healthy Distractions
If “home for the holidays” is code for “major family drama,” look for healthy ways to distract yourself — like watching a favorite holiday movie or curling up with a book you’ve been meaning to read.
If all else fails, Daramus suggests focusing your attention on pleasant sensory stimuli: “Really savor the taste of the cocoa or the beauty of some well-done decorations,” she says.
It’ll make it easier to tune out your opinionated uncle.
7. Leave Earlier Than Normal
Holiday travel often means navigating through rain, snow, sleet, or ice.
And with so many other people traveling for the holidays, you may also run into heavy traffic on the road or long lines at the airport.
You don’t want to miss a flight because you didn’t anticipate delays along the way, so do yourself a big favor and leave early.
Worst case, you end up breezing through airport security and have an extra hour or two to grab a coffee or download a few podcasts to listen to during your flight.
8. Relax Your “Screen Time” Rules
Got kids? While there are certainly great reasons to limit their screen time, give yourself a guilt-free pass to relax those rules when you’re traveling.
If you’re going on a long flight or road trip, bring a fully charged tablet so they can watch movies or play games.
Why make holiday travel even more stressful with a cranky, impatient little one? Let Vampirina handle this one!
9. Set Your Boundaries
Holiday travel isn’t just stressful — it can also be expensive. (Thanks, surge pricing!)
If your travel plans are stretching your budget to the max, it’s okay to skip a holiday brunch or opt out of the office Secret Santa if you don’t have the funds.
“The holidays are a time for giving, but only up to a point,” Daramus says. “Know when you’re giving too much and feeling neglected or taken advantage of, and step away for a while.”