If you’re planning a trip during the festive season, you’re not alone. Everyone else seems to be traveling, too. The holiday season accounts for nearly 10 percent of all miles traveled by Americans during the entire year. Planes are overbooked, highways are overcrowded and soon most of us are hardly overflowing with the holiday spirit.
What makes you tense about traveling during the holidays? Planning is essential for stress-free travel, so address your concerns early. With a few precautions you can get to your destination without losing your good will toward man (or your luggage).
If You’re Flying
- Call to confirm. Delayed or cancelled flights are a major cause of holiday stress. Call the airlines within 24 hours of departure to confirm your flight information. Leave a contact number where you can be reached if the plane is delayed or canceled, and call once more just before leaving for the airport to make sure there have been no unexpected changes. If your itinerary has hit a snag, you can wait at home (instead of at the crowded airport) and try to reserve another flight via telephone.
- Choose your ticket wisely. Try to fly early in the day. The airport usually is less crowded, and if your flight is canceled, it will be easier to get another reservation. Some travel experts recommend avoiding “e-tickets” (electronic tickets) during this peak season, so consider getting a traditional paper ticket instead. Also, try to pick a route with a minimal number of connections and stops; these are just additional opportunities for delays.
- Pack wisely. Knowing that you have the essentials handy can reduce some travel anxiety. Keep medical prescriptions, glasses and overnight basics in your carry-on bag, along with a deck of cards, bottled water and a nutritious snack. If you are flying with children, make napping easier by bringing a soft, familiar blanket from home. Keep a pre-paid phone card in your wallet in case you need to alert family and friends that your arrival time has changed. Minimize your luggage (so there’s less to drag through the airport and less for the airlines to handle) and avoid packing gifts. Ship presents to your holiday destination ahead of time, using a registered mail service, or order gifts from catalogs and have them sent directly to the recipients.
If You’re Driving
- Don’t just endure the drive, enjoy it. A long car trip in holiday traffic doesn’t seem like much to get excited about. Try to adjust your attitude toward holiday travel, and make the drive a little more festive with some holiday music or a seasonal book-on-tape. If children are in the car, plan some fun, distracting activities.
- Be prepared. Have a professional mechanic thoroughly examine your car before hitting the highway. Stash blankets, flares and a first-aid kit in the trunk, and consider keeping a mobile phone in the car in case of a breakdown or lengthy delay. Check that your membership in an automotive club providing emergency roadside assistance is up to date. Knowing that you’re ready for an emergency will decrease your stress level.
- Be kind to your body. Avoid caffeine, drink plenty of water and eat balanced meals, even on the road. You will feel far better when you reach your destination if you take care of yourself along the way. Stop the car every few hours and stretch or jog in place for a few minutes. If you’re traveling with children, play a quick game of “Simon Says” so that everyone gets a little exercise.