Tips for holiday travel by plane or car - stress less this year

The holidays can be stressful because of the amount of things we feel like we have to do. Add to that the things we can’t avoid, like paying bills, making dinner, and keeping the business of day-to-day living going, and it can be a recipe for disaster.  Here are some tried and true ways to make things easier so you have more time to enjoy the season, not just make it through.


By Car:

  1. Safety is #1 – Make sure you’re equipped for any kind of conditions – chains, Fix-a-flat, flashlight, jumper cables, first aid kit, etc.
  2. Use technology to your advantage – With MapQuest and Google Maps there’s no reason to not know the best route to your destination.  Both help you plan any trip – from around town to across country.  Plan before you leave – never text or look up mapping information while driving.  Know where you’ll find gas along the way as well – both mapping programs offer that feature – don’t spend hours stuck on the side of the road waiting for help.  You can even check gas prices before you leave home with a gas price feature on MapQuest.
  3. Plan ahead for snacking – pack healthy snacks in a cooler bag so you won’t be tempted to buy junk along the way.  We traveled to Idaho last week and I was shocked to see every rest area garbage can filled to the brim with fast food trash.  Skip it and enjoy healthy food along the way – your body will thank you.
  4. Bring non-electronic entertainment – It’s so sad to see kids plugged into DVD players on drives.  This is a prime opportunity for you to spend some quality time together.  Play the license tag game, “I Spy”, and other traveling games along the way.  Or just talk.  You’ll be surprised how amazing your kids are.  Bring along audiobooks that are great for the whole family and listen to them TOGETHER. When our kids were in elementary school we loved stories like The Watsons Go to Birmingham and Shiloh.  By high school, we’d graduated to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Primary Phase (Original BBC Radio Series).  Listening together starts all kinds of conversations and then later reading on their own.  My youngest has read every Douglas Adam‘s book and has a huge love of Sci-fi, even now that he’s an adult.  Both of my boys are a still avid readers in their late 20’s!
  5. Think comfort – put yourself and the kids in comfortable clothing with slip-on shoes – that lets them kick them off for comfort, but they’re easy to put on when you reach the rest stop.  Bring blankets and pillows as well for quick naps.

By Air:

  1. Check you reservation – Check-in online 24-hours prior to your flight, but don’t head to the airport without confirming your reservation and checking that it’s still on time to leave. Airlines change planes and weather in other areas can affect you even if you’ve got sun in your local forecast.  Or make use of most airline’s apps to let your know when there’s a delay.
  2. Be kind to airport employees – that gate/ticket agent can help, but keep calm, be kind, and don’t make demands.  My son, a seasoned CSA for an airline and he will tell you that agents respond better to nice people and will go above and beyond what their company allows when approached in a positive manner.  You’re one of the hundreds of people who’ve come to them during their shift.  Be memorable for your calm demeanor, don’t be the one they’ve had to call security on.
  3. Know the latest security rules – check the TSA online site or your airport’s website. Know what you can and can’t take online.  Additionally, many airports have the wait times listed.  Better yet, go 2-1/2 to 3 hrs early during the holidays.  Bring a book and enjoy the downtime. Mentally prepare yourself – flights will be full.  Be prepared to not have everything your way – people will smell, babies will cry, and you may not get a soda.  Bring something to block sound, your own snack, and drink, and remind yourself that you’re traveling because you want to.  What a luxury it is to be able to fly somewhere – most of the world doesn’t have food or water and we get to complain about no peanuts on airplanes. It’s all perspective.
  4. Prepare for delays and cancelations – have a blanket, travel pillow, snacks and water in your carry-on bag in case you have to spend the night in the airport.  If you’re traveling with kids or elderly, plan for them as well.  Bring all medications WITH you and have them on your person. NEVER check important medical supplies.  Bring diapers, baby food, wipes, extra clothes, etc., for kids and clean undies and shirt for yourself.  Weather happens.  Don’t panic and be prepared.


So you get to stay at home and won’t be traveling – does that mean they’re stress-free? They can be!

  1. Babysitting or playdate exchange – gain  some kid-free time to make your way through your holiday to-do list by coordinating a playdate exchange with another family.  Or include the kids in your planning.  Scale back to what you can do with their help.
  2. Find a holiday helper – save time and relieve stress by finding a holiday helper to assist with household chores and last-minute errands.  I hired girls who were too young to babysit on their own, but who could be here to play with the boys while I worked.  It was great – they earned holiday money and I got to do some supervised playtime for them while I got some things done around the house.
  3. Purchase gifts online at stores that offer free or inexpensive gift wrapping – let the store wrap your gift and save hours of time (unless you’re like me and actually like the task).
  4. Use technology wisely – bank online and shop online.  I do all of my banking online and 90% of my shopping online.  We use automatic check deposit and online bill pay so we haven’t stepped foot in a bank branch in years.  We also love automatic email (or telephone) notices when our balance drops below our designated amount so bounced checks are a thing of the past.   With free shipping and great prices, there’s rarely a reason for me to step foot in a store.  I even have my groceries delivered and cases of toilet paper arrive from Amazon once a month.  This means no driving around wasting time trying to find items in stock and it mean spending less because I’m a sucker for a good deal, even if I don’t really need it.
  5. Enjoy – do less and enjoy more.  You don’t need a Martha Stewart quality decor to enjoy spending time with each other.