Two years ago, I moved 900 miles away from where I was born and raised. While it was absolutely the right choice for me, it meant that I was a good 18-hour drive away from my family and loved ones. That distance makes it difficult to visit often, so like millions of others, the holidays are the time when I make an annual pilgrimage home to visit my family.
I used to dread it. My family is great, but every year, I would end up near tears and in a panic from the stress of traveling home. From buying and shipping gifts ahead of time to waiting in line for the security check at the airport, it’s a lot to handle.
Through sheer practice, I’ve managed to make it a bit easier on myself. If, like me, you end up stressed out every year, these tips will help simplify and streamline holiday travel.
Give yourself extra time
We’ve all been there. It’s 20 minutes until your flight departs, and you’re still in line at security. There’s nothing that can trigger stress faster. At the holidays, when you’re short on time and sleep, it’s easy to feel like you’re rushing from place to place. And that can lead to a lot of stress.
Be kind to yourself and reduce scrambling by giving yourself plenty of time. Plan on being super early to everything. While you may feel silly arriving at the airport three hours early, it will make the experience much more pleasant. You won’t freak out if there’s traffic. You won’t feel panicked in the security line. You can take the time to have a nice meal in your terminal and escape into a good book waiting for your flight. Whether it’s via plane, train, bus or car, I find traveling so much more enjoyable when I just give myself more time than I need.
Make a list and check it twice
When it comes to packing for holiday travel, you’re often carrying a lot more stuff than you usually would. From holiday outfits to gifts, there’s a lot of extra things you need to tote around. That means there’s more room for error, and you can easily forget important things.
Make a list of everything you need, from essentials like toothpaste to that gorgeous sparkly dress you plan on wearing Christmas Eve. As you pack, check things off and double-check that you have everything well in advance. It will minimize last-minute stress when you realize you forgot your in-laws’ gifts or your phone charger.
Mail gifts ahead of time
I’ve been in the airport lugging giant suitcases stuffed to the gills with gifts. And I’ve been the person in frantic tears when one of those suitcases never made it to the baggage claim. Save yourself from this awful scenario by shipping gifts via UPS, Fedex, or the good ol’ U.S. Postal Service directly to a loved one’s home ahead of time. You can insure the shipment and get a confirmation when it’s delivered, so you can rest assured everything is where it should be. It can be more expensive, but it will save you so much time and stress.
Invest in travel insurance
I usually advocate against travel insurance, but I make an exception for holiday travel. There is just so much that can go wrong. From getting snowed in to getting sick during the winter months, your travel plans can get disrupted. Now you have to deal with the added stress of needing new (expensive) tickets, and nonrefundable hotel stays and rental cars. Travel insurance can give you peace of mind that you’re covered when the unexpected happens.
While the holidays can be stressful and anxiety-inducing, you can give yourself some breathing room and minimize the effects with a little pre-planning. By planning ahead and taking some precautions, you can set yourself up for a stress-free, enjoyable holiday.