This week marks the official kickoff of the holiday travel season, perhaps the most stressful time to get from here to there, whether you’re on a plane, train or automobile.
While I’m staying put this week, I’ll be joining my parents and sister in Florida for Christmas and going with friends to a yet-to-be-determined Bowl game for New Year’s (Go Cats!), so I have more than my share of transportation hassles ahead.
With that in mind, I’ve come up with a list of six things that I do to keep sane during holiday travel. Feel free to add your own!
1. Travel on the holiday itself. On Thanksgiving and Christmas, the airports are less crowded. The interstates are more managable (even the dreaded I-95 on the Eastern Seaboard). Sure, you might suffer some angst from family members who want you there (“You’re getting here when??”), but if you take the right flight, you can arrive well before the turkey comes out of the oven.
2. Or try “off” days. If family traditions insist you arrive before the holiday, try traveling on “off days” before and after. The Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving (although a little late for that, I guess!) are generally pretty easy, as are the Friday and Saturday after the holiday.
With both Christmas and New Year’s on Fridays this year, the same logic applies. Try Dec. 21 and Dec. 22, or Dec. 28 and Dec. 29. Bonus: Some of these days fall outside the holiday surcharges that many legacy airlines have imposed this year.
2. Ship bulky packages ahead of time. Already a precious commodity, overhead bin space this season will be tough to come by. Do yourself – and other passengers - a favor and send your presents to your destination in advance (it’s not a good idea to carry wrapped gifts through the airport anyway – you never know if security will ask you to unwrap them). Or better yet, have your online orders sent directly to your holiday locale. Same goes with any loot you pick up - just hit a post office on your way to the airport.
3. Figure out logistics in advance. In the hectic holiday buildup, it’s easy to forget the small stuff. Like where to park (Long term lots will be full – get a cab or grab a ride from a friend if you can). And what to do with pets (find a sitter or kennel – that weekend New Year’s invite didn’t really include Fido). Gas up the car. Charge your cell phone. Pack your camera batteries. Prone to forgetfulness? Lay out everything on the bed or table.
4. Keep essentials close. The forecasts may look good now, but it ain’t a holiday weekend without a winter squall somewhere, especially if you’re traveling through the Midwest. Pack a change of clothes, along with toiletries, in your carry on bag. And contact lens wearers - don’t forget your glasses! Nothing worse than dry contacts during a never-ending layover.
5. Bring snacks for the airport. Traveling on peak holidays requires patience and endurance. So this not the time to get hopped up on Cinnabons and suffer a sugar crash (and wouldn’t you rather save your calories for homemade cookies instead of greasy fastfood?) I always stick a few Kashi bars and bananas in my purse to tide us over.
6. Practice meditation – or take a Xanax. Realize that no matter how much you prepare, things will go wrong. Getting upset or throwing a fit isn’t going to work, as your fellow passengers will be in the same boat. Although hours spent in the airport seem twice as long as a normal hours, remember your final goal – an outstanding holiday with loved ones. Keep your eyes on that prize!
Now it’s your turn. How do you stay sane during holiday travel?