Do holidays=stress for you? They don’t have to. These tips from TravelingMom’s travel experts can ease holiday stress, make travel during the busy season easier and help you handle it all with patience, grace and a power strip!
Sometimes there’s no way around it: holidays equal stress. And while sometimes that stress can be good (wrapping presents, decorating the house), there are other times when it’s not so good. No one wants to think back on their holidays and the first thing that comes to mind is how stressed out they were.
What can you do to relieve the holiday stress, particularly when your holiday include travel? Here are my favorite ways for this holiday season.
1. Give Yourself the Gift of Time
Leave for the airport two hours earlier than you think you need to so there’s no stress over a potentially missed flight if the traffic is heavy or the lines at TSA are longer than expected.
Same if you’re driving. If the GPS says it will take three hours to get to your destination, leave four hours before your appointed arrival time. That way, if there is an accident or other unexpected delay, you won’t have to sweat whether Aunt Tilly is going to be irritated with you for being late. Again.
TravelingMom Tip: If you’re a frequent flier, do what I did: buy a membership in Clear. It is the touch-free, stress-free way to breeze through an airport!
2. Know the Rules Before You Go
One of our TravelingMoms was flying recently and told me about a family who was stunned that their 3-year-old would need to wear a mask on the plane. They did not have a toddler-sized mask (our writer gave them her spare) and the toddler was uncooperative. It wound up working out, but they almost missed their flight.
Also check Covid rules for your destination. Some require everyone over the age of 2 to wear masks indoors. And always carry your vaccination card with you (or keep a photo on your phone), just in case.
TravelingMom Tip: If your kiddo is not used to wearing a mask, practice before the trip. Buy a fun mask, talk about how cute she looks when she wears it and have her wear it for several minutes each day leading up to the trip.
3. Pack the Essentials
Buy a car charger that accommodates a standard plug and ALWAYS travel with a power strip that has both plug and USB ports. Kids (and adults) need to stay charged up. A trip can go bad quickly if the kids can’t watch their devices and the teens can’t text their friends!
Packing a small power strip in my carry-on bag has saved the day for me so many times. There are never enough outlets at airports, so spread the holiday cheer by sharing phone charging ability.
TravelingMom Tip: Before you arrive at the relatives’ house, talk with kids about your expectations for phone and electronics use during the visit.
4. Check the Forecast
With summer-like temperatures in Chicago in December and a blizzard in Hawaii, looking at the calendar isn’t enough. That’s where a good weather app comes in super handy. There are lots of great free apps that will tell you what you need to know so you can pack your bikini for Chicago and your parka for Hawaii.
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TravelingMom Tip: Always pack light layers for everyone. They can easily be taken off and stuffed into a day bag or backpack for later when you’ll want to put them back on.
5. Plan a Schedule that Works
The grandparents are thrilled to see the kids. Use that to your advantage. Leave the kids with the grands — or Aunt Tilly — and spend an adults-only night out with your significant other, the cousins you adore or anyone but the kids!
6. Wrap When You Arrive
This is particularly important if you’re flying. TSA will unwrap gifts if they can’t tell what’s inside. But even if you’re driving, those pretty wrapping jobs can get ripped and crushed bouncing around in the trunk. Just pack the paper, tape and scissors and wrap when you arrive.
If your kids are past the Santa stage, consider exchanging gifts at home before or after the trip so you don’t have to transport everything to your destination.
TravelingMom Tip: If you’re ordering gifts online, have them delivered to their final destination to save yourself the hassle of packing and schlepping them.
7. Book Direct Flights if You Can
Winter travel can be dicey thanks to our unpredictable weather. If possible, book a direct flight, even if it means driving a few hours to get to a major airport. You’ll be glad you did if a freak storm delays your flight, which would have meant a missed connection and your family spending Christmas in an unfamiliar airport.
TravelingMom Tip: Here’s what to do if your flight is delayed.
8. Don’t Visit Family
If your family is the source of your holiday stress, consider taking an actual vacation over the holidays instead of visiting family. I know this can be its own source of stress, but start laying the foundation at this year’s gathering, then make a plan for sending gifts next year while you and kiddos relax on the beach.
9. Give Yourself the Gift of Grace
This year, for the first time, I hosted Thanksgiving in a hotel room. We had a small kitchen, so I cooked. I told myself that if it didn’t turn out, we would just order pizza. It was about all of us being together.
Everything turned out fine, but knowing ahead of time that I was prepared for it not to work meant I was able to relax and enjoy the day.
Happy, stress-free holidays to you!