Travel Tips to Ease Common Holiday Stress

Though the holiday season is welcomed by many as a chance to reconnect with family and friends, in a society wherein families are more geographically diverse than ever before, the amount of travel necessary for such reunions has taken some of the joy away from the holiday season. Long lines at airports, busy highways and mass transit delays are common during the holiday season, when it seems everyone has somewhere to go, and every way to get there is delayed.

For families or individuals readying themselves for another holiday trip, the following tips should help make this travel season less stressful.

Be early. Nearly everyone is pressed for time around the holiday season. Increased days off from work unfortunately do not lead to less work to be done, as deadlines still need to be met and tasks must still be performed. In addition to that time constraint, the busy social schedule many people have during the holidays only further decreases what free time might be left.

That said, being early when traveling is a great way to reduce holiday travel stress. If flying, arrive at the airport no later than 90 minutes before departure. Security at airports is especially stringent during the holiday season. And more and more people fly to see friends and families during the season, too. Both of those things emphasize the need to get to the airport as early as possible, no matter how pressed for time an individual may be.

When driving to a holiday destination, set the alarm clock early and beat the crowds to the highways. Traffic is heavy and accidents are common during the holiday season. However, driving in the early morning hours can significantly reduce travel time, as there are fewer cars on the road and possibly less accidents, leading to less rubber necking and less closed lanes.

Don't ignore regulations or new rules. Ignoring regulations or newly adopted rules will only lead to unnecessary stress and nothing else. For example, in lieu of the poor economy, many airlines now charge passengers for checked and possibly even carry-on luggage. Travelers should be aware of this when booking their flight, or at least the night before when getting ready to travel. By ignoring regulations and rules, travelers are only setting themselves up for an argument at their check-in gate. It's a stressful argument a traveler won't win.

Plan for the worst. Travelers can do themselves a favor by expecting the worst when traveling. This includes heavily trafficked highways, airline delays and even lost luggage. To prepare for lost luggage, pack all valuables (i.e., medications, credit cards, etc.) in carry-on luggage. In addition, include reading material in carry-on luggage to help combat boredom if a flight is delayed. And pack along portable video games or even a portable DVD player for kids in case of long layovers or delays.

When driving, be sure to pack food and beverages. If stuck in the almost inevitable holiday gridlock, extra food and beverages can help maintain energy and avoid hunger when there seems to be no rest area in sight. Also, drivers should always begin a trip with a full tank of gas. Running out of gas is never good and can set a bad tone for a trip when it happens at the onset.

Return home a day early. Whenever possible, it can be especially beneficial to return home, via flight or vehicle, a day early. For instance, after the Thanksgiving holiday many people must return to work the following Monday. That often results in overcrowded roads and highways on the Sunday following Thanksgiving. Avoid that stress by choosing to start the voyage home on Saturday. If driving, go halfway and take all the time necessary. For those who find holiday travel especially stressful, having that extra day at home to relax and unwind can make all the difference.