Traveling during the holiday season can be stressful. More crowds, more delays, and just overall more potential for frustration. I have traveled many times during holiday weekends and here are a few of my tips.
For all these tips, my biggest tip is be mentally prepared. There is nothing worse than thinking “it will be fine,” only to discover it is not fine, and you are in fact NOT prepared to deal with everyone driving to grandma’s at the same time. Take a deep breath, have some realistic expectations, and don’t be ready to fly off the handle the second there’s a delay at the airport or a slow-down on the highway. It’s going to happen. Don’t ruin the trip with your bad attitude. (Yes, this is also a message for myself.)
Pack carry-on only
I always say this, but I mean it during holiday weekends. You will always have longer lines to check bags, which means you’ll be waiting a lot longer to check a bag than you will to carry-on. If you are bringing carry-on only, you can print your ticket and go right through security without waiting to drop your bag off. Also, the busier the airport, the more chances they’ll have to lose your bag. They can’t lose what they don’t have, so keep it with you. If you’ve never carried on only, check out this video where I show you how to do it:
If you are traveling with a baby (or kids), here is a good post on how to travel carry-on only with a baby. I have never done this (obviously), but apparently it is possible!
Expect long lines and delays
I’m going to say this again because it seems like every time I go to the airport lately, people are SHOCKED and ANGERED that things aren’t quick. It’s like they’ve never been in an airport before or traveled during a holiday. You know how it’s Thanksgiving and you’re going to see your family? Do you also know that it’s a national holiday and literally everyone else ALSO knows its Thanksgiving and is going to see their families?
Don’t expect to breeze through lines. There are less people working, and more people traveling, and you will have lines and delays. If traveling during meal time, eat ahead of time. Hanger will come at you if you are not prepared. Pack snacks and be prepared to wait 45 minutes for your Starbucks and also know that there’s a 50/50 chance your order will be wrong. If you know that ahead of time, you won’t be triggered when it happens.
Try to enjoy the fact that it’s a privilege to fly
“The covered wagon made 8 to 20 miles per day depending upon weather, roadway conditions and the health of the travelers. It could take up to six months or longer to reach their destination.” Rickie Longfellow
Let’s have some perspective. In a few hours, you’ll reach your destination. Not a few days; not a few months. A few hours. So what if it the older woman ahead of you takes an extra 15 seconds to get her shoes off in the security line? So what if you have to wait 5 extra minutes to use the bathroom? So what? It’s a privilege that 1. you can afford to buy a plane ticket (or someone else could afford it and bought it for you), and 2. that it takes so much less time than it used to. Also, consider that the employees at the airport are working on a holiday weekend. Try smiling and saying thank you. (If this is new to you, try practicing in the mirror before arriving at the airport.) They probably don’t want to spend their holiday listening to you complain. And I also don’t want to spend my holiday listening to you complain. Think about the privilege you have and smile.
Car travel tips
Pack food for the drive
If you’ve traveled on a holiday weekend on any toll roads or major highways with lots of truck stops, you know just how congested they can be. You also know that every place you stop is short staffed (due to the holiday) so there are not only way more people traveling, but way less people to help you. To avoid waiting in long lines for a crappy cheeseburger and delaying your drive, pack sandwiches and snacks. Bring a cooler. Plan to eat in the car and don’t waste an hour at a rest area McDonalds.
Plan your drive around non-peak times
Consider the main cities you’ll be driving through and what time you’ll be driving through. Even if you leave home early, you may still hit the major cities at the exact time you’ll be wanting to avoid. Take a look at what times you’ll be where and try to avoid the peaks. Driving late at night and early in the morning are better, but you still want to double-check you’re not hitting Chicago at 8:30a.m. or 4:45p.m. on a Friday. This is a common error I seem to make and then it’s a lot more driving than if I had thought about this ahead of time.
Get the audiobooks going
This is just my favorite car travel tip. Audiobooks are my jam. You forget how long you’ve been in the car when you’re listening to a mystery or an inspiring book! Check them out at your local library. (If in Columbus, download the Libby app and take advantage of the local libraries have have hundreds of bestsellers waiting for you to check out!)