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    20 Strategies for Stress-Free Holiday Travel

    If there were ever a group of people trained to master the misery of holiday travel, it would be a military family. Just ask anyone who’s endured a nightmare cross-country PCS. A rogue PCS teaches us tips, tricks, coping mechanisms, travel hacks, money savings, and a little bit of patience. Use your hard-earned experience to sail through future holiday travel!

    Since you’re savvy enough to know there’s always room for more travel training, update your skills and try some new tactics to make holiday travel less stressful this year.

    Yoga woman meditating and making a zen symbol with her hand

    Photo from Shutterstock 

    Destress Before You Leave 

    A safe and relatively uneventful holiday trip requires plenty of preparation. 

    1) If you're planning a high-end holiday vacation instead of a couple of days visiting family, consider hiring a travel agent. When the trip goes sideways, having a professional work on your behalf is a relief.

    2) Hopefully, you already have TSA Precheck, but you should also consider adding CLEAR.  CLEAR access could save precious minutes in the TSA line—crucial if you’re running behind boarding time. CLEAR verifies your identity for less than $200 a year (possibly free if your credit card membership pays) so you can bypass the main TSA line. You can apply at home and finish at CLEAR kiosk stations in the airport. It’s quick. 

    3) You already know to buy airline tickets one to three months in advance, but have you researched the flexible date feature? You could save money by booking your flight to arrive before the big day and fly home a few days later.

    4) Always book a direct flight if possible. Your chances for an on-time departure and arrival increase significantly, especially if you take the first flight out in the morning.  

    5) Add hours to your schedule to avoid missing holiday festivities due to traffic jams, full parking garages, long lines, and canceled flights. 

    6) Plan for holiday hours at your destination. Don’t rely on restaurant or event schedules to be the same as non-holidays. You could be disappointed that your favorite location is closed on Mondays or closes early on Sundays. 

    7) If possible, ship your gifts to your final destination. Wrapped boxes are difficult to transport through the airport. They also take up a lot of space in your car, and stacks of pretty presents are the #1 attraction for thieves in store and hotel parking lots. 

    8) Get plenty of sleep before your travel day. Pack everything during the day and stick to a bedtime schedule at night. 

    9) Some anxious travelers benefit from a workout before heading out on the road or to the airport. The endorphins help tame your nerves. Two cheerful kids on a car backseat

    Photo from Shutterstock 

    Expertly Plan Your Car Trips  

    Prepare yourself and your car to enjoy a traditional holiday road trip.  

    10) Make sure your scheduled maintenance is updated and that you have plenty of “just in case” extras stashed in the trunk. Pack blankets, water, snacks for the passengers, and emergency tools and equipment for the car.

    11) Download all your favorite apps and ensure you’re signed in so you don’t have to remember login information. Nothing is worse than resetting your password when the Wi-Fi is lagging. 

    12) Plan for plenty of stops along the highway, and choose an app that describes the good and bad rest stops on your route. You might find one that offers a one-stop shop for potty breaks, lunch, coffee, and a dog park.

    13) If you're a passenger and want to bring your work along because it helps you feel better about missing work days or distracts you from traffic jams, go ahead. Just remember to keep your workload in check after you arrive.

    14) Don’t plan to drive anywhere during rush hour traffic. Instead, take a look at what Google Maps says are the best times for holiday travel and shopping. 

    Happy family wth two kids traveling by airplane

    Photo from Shutterstock 

    Airport Tips to Save Time and Money 

    Even the FAA wants you to beat the airport dread and created a website to help you fly better.  

    15) By now, you know lost luggage is a sign of the flying times, so check your bags only if necessary. If you check your bags, insert AirTags or other tracking devices to help you help your airline find your belongings.

    16) Distract yourself from stressful situations like a packed concourse with entertainment such as books, movies, and music. 

    17) Don’t engage with unruly passengers in the airport, car rental line, or in any other mass of annoyed travelers. You don’t have the authority to correct their behavior, and could make things worse. Plus, if you’re calm and polite, you might influence other travelers to do the same. 

    18) Who wants to stand in line for food at the airport when they’re hangry? Prepare snacks and meals ahead of time and save yourself money and aggravation. Add a few holiday treats to make the dining experience more festive. Don’t forget to check with TSA about food and drinks you can and cannot bring on the plane. 

    19) When you have a choice, choose an airport that offers the least resistance to your travel plans. Research children’s activities, pet relief areas, and drive times between your final destination and multiple airports in one city, like Midway and O’Hare in Chicago. 

    20) Holiday travel is the time to splurge on airport lounge access. If lounge access isn’t included with your airline loyalty programs or credit cards, consider buying one-day access to take advantage of food and beverage service and possibly a shower.

    Day passes are harder to come by because of overcrowding, but Priority Pass offers a yearly subscription to lounges across the globe. Also, don’t forget to check on USO airport locations. They provide free amenities for servicemembers and their families. 

    Military families often travel during the holidays to visit friends and family. While reconnecting is usually worthwhile, do yourself a favor and plan to reduce holiday stress as much as possible with these tips. 

    If travel plans are in your future, grab our free resource below for more tips and tricks!

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    20 tips for stress-free holiday travel

    Header image from iStock.com/Visionkick

    Dawn M. Smith


    Dawn M. Smith

    Dawn is a real estate and military life writer who has a serious HGTV habit. When she is not writing, her teen daughter, Army husband, and golden retriever keep her busy through chauffeur duties, travel planning, and long dog walks. Dawn is pleased to share her experiences with MilitaryByOwner readers who are hoping to simplify military family journeys of all kinds. Follow Dawn on Pinterest for more ideas and resources and visit her site at Dawn M. Smith Custom Content Creation.

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