All The Tips You Need For Easy Holiday Travel

Unsurprisingly, the holiday season is full of traveling for many, whether folks are heading home to see their families or embarking on a much-needed vacation. Traveling is often initially full of excitement and hope — both for the getaway and the holidays themselves — but can quickly descend into stress for many reasons. Bickering could erupt between partners or family members, or maybe you forgot an essential item back home. Then, there's everyone's favorite obstacle: car issues. After all, the United States Bureau of Transportation Statistics notes that "most long-distance holiday travel, about 91 percent, is by personal vehicle, such as by car." At least a few of the people in that majority are bound to experience car trouble, nonetheless other, non-vehicle obstacles.

There is still hope, however, for smooth sailing during the holiday travel season. From limiting the spread of winter colds to entertaining kids during long flights or car rides and everything in between, here are our tips to help you manage your stress while enjoying the holidays.

Plan ahead

While purchasing airline tickets as early as possible to get the lowest price and highest availability is always advised, labor shortages are making it even more necessary to secure your spots in advance (via the Los Angeles Times). This goes for lodging as well. Some hotels don't have enough staff to run at full capacity, limiting the supply of rooms even further. As soon as you have your travel plans finalized with your friends and family members, purchase any necessary tickets and book your lodging to avoid any last-minute hiccups.

Expect the unexpected

Sometimes, the best thing you can do to get through an anxious time is to manage your expectations, according to Psychology Today. Between fuel costs, inflation, winter weather, other weary passengers, potential car troubles, and more, you're bound to face a delay of some sort. Accepting this truth before you leave home can make the difference between taking a change of plans in stride or experiencing a full meltdown in a public setting. Make sure you stock up on snacks and download a few audiobooks, podcast episodes, and albums because the only sure thing is that waiting is likely at some point during the trip.

Consider a road trip

If the price of flights and the possibility of being exposed to the evergreen winter flu has you more stressed out than usual this holiday travel season, consider driving. The familiarity of your own car and the ability to stop for a break any time you want can be very comforting. Driving can also eliminate a lot of stress for parents, who might spend their time and energy worrying that their kids will bother other airline passengers by crying or fidgeting.

Utilize hotel alternatives

Due to the sheer number of folks traveling during the holidays, hotel rooms are likely to become scarce. This can also lead to higher prices thanks to our good friend supply and demand. If you weren't able to book yourself a room well in advance, you might be better off looking for alternative lodging. You may be able to land an entire house or apartment for a better price by browsing Airbnb or VRBO for short-term rentals in the area of your destination, as well as along the route to get there if your trek requires stops. Just watch out for those sneaky cleaning fees!

Use your saved-up air miles and credit card rewards

Many people claim that they're saving their air miles and credit card rewards for a special occasion but hesitate to pull the trigger when that occasion arises. If ever there was a time to use every reward and air mile you have available to you, it's the holiday travel season. In fact, you may even want to consider committing to opening a new credit card account and saving all your miles and rewards every year to use solely for holiday travel. It could just leave your bank account a bit happier at the end of each year! 

Leave early

The importance of arriving at the airport early cannot be emphasized enough. While arriving well before your flight is always important, the combination of more travelers and fewer staff members is likely to equal long waits that could push you toward missing your flight. Those who opt for road trips should also depart as early in the morning as possible to avoid the type of heavy potential holiday traffic congestion that could add hours to your trip. 

Pack quiet entertainment

Regardless of the mode of transportation you choose for your holiday traveling, your children are going to be faced with long stretches of sitting. If you want to avoid boredom-based misbehavior, make sure you come prepared. Even if you're driving, prepare a carry-on bag that will stay with you when all the other luggage is packed away. Fill the bag with silent activities, like fidget toys, coloring books with crayons, and a tablet with headphones for each child. Be sure to download movies and shows before you leave. 

Test and mask up

While public concern about the COVID-19 pandemic is easing, according to Harvard Health Publishing, the virus still poses a threat. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported a general upward trend in positive test cases from July 2023 to September 2023, with an uptick in the percentage of COVID-related deaths as well. 

Before you head to the airport or drive to another state, test yourself and everyone else who plans to accompany you with an at-home COVID-19 test kit. If anyone tests positive, either cancel your plans or verify with a test at a drive-thru testing center or a doctor's office. If everyone tests negative, carry on, but pack your masks. Even if masking isn't required where you live, it may still be the norm or rule along your route or at your destination.