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Travel That: Holiday Travel While Retaining Your Sanity

Holiday Travel while Retaining Your Sanity

I remember the first time I hosted Thanksgiving at my teensy tiny apartment in New York during my college years. It was, at the time, the most central location for my immediate family to meet for turkey day, and the first time since I was in middle school that I didn’t have to pack up and go somewhere for Thanksgiving. That Wednesday I cleaned my apartment, chuckling to myself, thinking of all the poor souls hustling around at Grand Central, catching buses in midtown, or scrambling to get to the airport. It made me realize just how stressful holiday travel is.

No matter how near or far you’re traveling for the holidays, stress is easy to come by. There’s food to prepare, gifts to buy, travel expenses and arrangements to deal with, in-laws or other wacky relatives, and to top it off I always like to keep Murphy’s Law in the back of my mind (if something is going to go wrong, it will… at the worst possible moment). Your holidays should be as stress-free as possible, so here are a few tips to help make these upcoming couple of months all about family, friends, and making wonderful memories!


Consider hosting

Hosting Thanksgiving is an amazing adventure in itself, so this is a great option if you like throwing parties. If you enjoy putting your time and energy into planning, cooking, decorating, and event hospitality, then you’ll at least enjoy some of the stressful things that come your way.

Since you won’t have to deal with travel anxiety yourself, go above and beyond to make sure all invited guests have enough information about how to get to your place. Sending out an email to everyone letting them know the nearest airport, train stop, bus stop, and the parking situation at your house is great. Perhaps you could even appoint someone to do airport pickups. Also list local hotel and AirBNB options if it’s something that guests need to consider.

Purchase in advance

For future reference, buying in June or July is the ideal time for Thanksgiving and Christmastime travel.  If you’re still waiting to purchase Thanksgiving or other holiday travel fares in hopes that some amazing deal will come along, then check yo’self. It’s frustrating, I know, but fares around the holidays spike, and any specials and sales you might be holding out for will more than likely not be valid for those times. Hop online (like, now) and get your flight/bus fare/train ticket/etc.

Look at Rideshares

If your destination is drive-able, this is a great option! Plane and train prices are automatically more expensive during winter vacations, so ask around to friends and family and see who might be interested in driving with you or who could give you a ride.

For those of you who have a car of your own, you can list your ride on Craigslist or Zimride to get a few extra passengers with you, which helps not only with cash but also with company! If you’re needing a ride, use those same sites to find some wheels. For safety’s sake, be sure to speak with the person on the phone before committing.

Road trip

Travel at night

Sleeping on a plane or driving at 3am isn’t necessarily the most enjoyable, but it will make other things easier to deal with. Everyone and their grandma seem to be traveling when holidays roll around, but there are a lot of people who will avoid those inconvenient times — and that means easier adventuring for you! If you go with the red-eye, bring a travel pillow, eye mask, and some nice headphones or earplugs. If you’re driving at night, try to find a buddy and stop the second you feel the tiniest bit tired.

Allow yourself extra time

This is the easiest way to reduce holiday travel stress. Whatever it is — getting through security, driving two hours north to your parent’s house, or getting to the Bolt Bus stop — allow yourself plenty of time. Like, more time than normal. Things get congested around the holidays, and that slows everything down. If you’d usually leave your house at 2pm to catch a 3pm bus out of town, giving yourself a buffer will reduce your stress big time.

Utilize Google Maps or Waze to help predict road traffic. Check your flight status well before you leave for the airport. Add on about 20-25% of your regular time to get anywhere.

Waiting around until you can board or standing in the cold in line for a bus is not fun, but running late and possibly missing a flight/bus/train is worse! If you want to keep it as zen as possible, allow yourself that additional time. Make sure to pack something to pass the time, like a new book or a great playlist!

Remember that everyone is just trying to get to their loved ones, too

Take a deep breath. And another. One more.

For the holidays being about family and love and world peace, people can be unfortunately self-centered when travel stress takes hold. When you’re on the go, things almost never go as planned, and the same goes for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s, and every other holiday, for that matter.

It’s definitely unfortunate if you run into problems, but keep in mind that you are one person among millions who has someplace to be. Sure, your flight may have been overbooked and you won’t get home until the next morning, but think about how the ticket agent you’re speaking with has to work on Thanksgiving Day, how many employees in retail can’t go home at all because of Black Friday, or how some people simply cannot afford to be with their loved ones. And — not to be a downer — but also consider people who have it far worse, living without water, food, or a bed to sleep on.

Have compassion, embrace the unexpected, and count your blessings. That’s what the holidays are about, anyway!

Are you going home or traveling for the holidays? How are you getting there?

This post was originally published on HaveHeart Magazine.

Photo credits:
Death to the Stock Photo

6 thoughts on “Travel That: Holiday Travel While Retaining Your Sanity

  1. Thanks for the great advice, patience is a virtue and travel can be tedious! It’s worth it when you arrive home and enjoy family time though. I’m going home for Christmas for the first time in 3yrs, We will be focusing on a low stress and low fuss affair, just enjoying the company. Wishing you safe and happy holiday travels.

  2. I was so spoiled last year when my WHOLE FAMILY came to the NC coast to celebrate Christmas. It was such a nice time, the weather was perfect and my drive home only took an hour and a half. Now we resume the regular Christmas meeting in West Virginia (everyone lives there but me now). I get through it by looking at the bright side — like I have to do wayyyy less cleaning this way. There are tradeoffs. I’m just glad I get to spend it with my family. 🙂

      • I felt so spoiled when I hosted, too — it seemed too easy. While I’m not traveling for Turkey Day, I will be traveling for Christmas! While it’ll be a little exhausting, it is totally worth it to be with the family. 🙂

        And I’m also a pro car singer! It’s actually the best way for me to stay awake during long road trips.

        Thank you for reading!!

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