O'hare Airport with Christmas Decorations Pinterest Image

Traveling during the holidays ranks pretty high for ways to increase your holiday stress. From larger crowds to weather delays, holiday travel stress seems inevitable. But is it? I reached out to my fellow travel bloggers to see what tips they could offer to ensure a stress-free holiday travel season and I’m so happy with the unique tips I received and think they will help you reduce stress during holiday travel.

Imagine You’re Watching a Movie

Maria from 203 Challenges

A few years ago I learned a tip about how to handle holiday season stress. I can’t remember where I read it but, if I remember correctly, the tip was from a psychologist so I figured it was worth a shot. If you find yourself stranded at the airport, stuck in a traffic jam or anywhere else where you don’t have control of the situation, the easiest way to relieve your anxiety and rage is to imagine everything is a movie and you are watching what is unfolding around you.

Since then I’ve used this trick when I encounter high stress situations and can confirm that it works. Acting as an observer in high stress situations helps to decrease the uncomfortable and bad feelings that one might have, especially during the busy holiday travel season which is often coupled with high stress. Added bonus? You might even find yourself laughing at the unbelievable scenario you are observing.

Cozy-up at the Airport Bar

Gina and Zeke from Jet Set and Forget
Does just thinking about going to the airport during the holidays and dealing with the crowds stress you out? Then alcohol is the answer.
Head to the airport earlier than you normally would and pull up a seat at the bar and grab a cold one. Even if you do not drink alcohol you can order a soda, juice, coffee, or meal.
Start a conversation with the person sitting next to you. Most likely your new friend is also stressed out, so you will already have something in common. You can learn about where they are heading, and maybe even give them some local tips for their destination.
Let the booze relax you and the conversation melt your stress away. Cheers!

Let Santa Transport Your Gifts

Traveling for the holidays is even more stressful when you have gifts to take along.  If you are the guy  who wraps gifts in the shopping bags they came in, okay.  Move on to the next tip.
But maybe you are like me.  I take great satisfaction in wrapping my gifts.  I want everyone to see the time and care taken.  This is as important as knowing the gift was right.  Transporting your gifts on your travels, inevitably results in smashed, damaged, and ugly packages.
Well, farewell scrunched up bows.  No more smashed packages in the  trunk.  No more tears, while TSA tears open a beautiful package, because the x-ray is suspicious. And of course, no more lugging packages in and out, repeatedly.
Pack your gifts neatly into box, and have them shipped to your destination ahead of time! Have them sent directly to the home of the family member or friend that you will celebrate with.  Make sure you let an adult know they are coming though.  You can arrive with your gifts there, awaiting your wrapping expertise!
Sure, it costs a little bit.  Beautiful packages under the tree, and peace of mind for you, are worth it!

Take the Early Flight

Daina from Headed Anywhere
Over the years I’ve traveled during the holidays for various reasons; visit family, visit friends, take advantage of the extra days off that otherwise eat into my paid vacation days etc. By choosing early morning flights I’ve discovered that the craziness of holiday travel is at a minimum.
It definitely sucks waking up super early, but it’s so worth missing the peak stress times at the airport. Lines are shorter, people are less grouchy and weather delays have less impact on your flight helping you to get to your destination as close to on time as possible.
I think the biggest win with flying out early is avoiding lengthy weather delays. When we flew out of Chicago to Durango Colorado after Christmas, our flight was scheduled for 5:30 am, we ended up leaving at 5:15 to beat an incoming winter storm which subsequently delayed hundreds and cancelled hundreds of flights that day. If we had been on a later flight we’d have to deal with the chain reaction of delays and grumpy people.
Next time you are planning your holiday travel, think about taking the early flight!

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Plan for In-flight Comfort

Kerry and Eldon from Expert Traveller
Take a few moments in the airline lounge, or boarding lounge, to remove your book, computer, glasses, phone, chocolate stash, or whatever you want for the flight, from your carryon bag.  We travel with a small foldable bag that we pop these items into in the lounge.  That way once we’ve found our seat, it is simply a matter of putting the larger carryon bags in the overhead compartment and any handbags (and the foldable bag) under the seats in front.
By doing this you assist everyone else to get to their seat earlier, ensuring an on time take off, which is especially important, and welcome, during the holiday season.  Plus you have everything you want for the flight in one convenient place!
#PRO TIP – just before the seatbelt sign is due to go on again for landing, take a moment to replace everything from the foldable bag into your carryon luggage.  This will make disembarking easier and see you on your way quickly from the arrivals gate to baggage collection, and onward to celebrating the Festive Season as you planned.

Save Your Money for Gifts

Nate from Travel Lemming
You can often save significantly on accommodation costs by simply showing up at the last minute and negotiating a rate on the spot. Hotels and guest houses with unused rooms will frequently give unpublished discounts to walk-up travelers who look like they might just walk down the street to the next place if the price isn’t right.
I usually start by researching a few places I’d be comfortable staying at. I then make sure they have availability online before simply walking up to one with my bags and inquiring about the cheapest rate for the night. I recently did this in Dublin as part of my 7 days in Ireland, and was instantly given a price that was 20% lower than online!
With that said, there are some times you definitely shouldn’t employ this: if a destination is very popular or at peak season, if there is a special event in town, or if it’s a small place with few hotels. You can usually get a sense of availability by looking at the availability meter icon at the top of Booking.com search results. This trick definitely isn’t for everyone, but for the frugal traveler it can mean big savings!

Save Time When You Arrive

One of the greatest enticements to travel overseas is hassle-free visa on arrival. There are many countries which facilitate visa on arrival to nationalities all across the globe. But imagine being standing in a queue for hours to get visa after a long haul flight. Surprisingly few destinations who offer this option are not equipped enough to handle the travelers who pour in at the airport in vast figures. Also, these popular destinations attract a huge number of tourist entries in there so-called “Season” that getting a visa on arrival becomes a nightmare.

I visited Thailand this September when the tourism season there begins to set in. I opted for visa on arrival considering it’s the easiest thing to do and ended up stretching myself in elongated visa queue for about two hours. Unfortunately, there were six more flights that landed at the same time as mine leaving the whole place chaotic with just two counters stamping the visa. I recommend avoiding visa on arrival for destinations with busy airports in their season as that possibly would lead to the utmost stressed beginning of anyone’s trip.

Do you have any tips on ways to avoid holiday travel stress? We’d love to hear them. Share in the comments!

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O'hare airport Christmas decorations with text over image that reads 7 Unique Ways to Stress-Free Holiday Travel

Daina - Founder of headedanywhere.com

Daina - Founder of headedanywhere.com

Writer, Photographer

Daina is the sunset and ocean obsessed photographer and writer behind adventure travel and work-life balance blog, Headed Anywhere, featuring travel tips, photography, and hacks to simplify your busy life.

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