Well-Being//

12 Creative Ways to De-Stress Your Holiday Travel

Helping fellow travelers, building in “calm time,” making a magical kid’s bag. Which of these tips will you try this year?

The pitfalls of holiday travel — the flight delays, the traffic jams, the enless lines! — threaten to send the most patient among us into a full-blown stress spiral. With the holidays around the corner, it’s key to have specific strategies on hand that can take some of the anxiety out of travel.

That’s why we asked our Thrive Global contributor community to share how they make their holiday commutes a lot less stressful. Their tried-and-true advice might just be the perfect solution to making your season less fraught and more festive.

Build in “calm time”

“I hate rushing before a flight, so I make sure I get to the airport in plenty of time. You never know whether there’ll be a traffic jam, cancelled train or other disruptions so making sure I leave plenty of time keeps me calm. Once I’ve checked in, I can switch off, slow down, relax, stretch and fill my water bottle up so I can stay hydrated and catch up on some reading. Getting on a flight feeling calm sets the tone for the rest of your journey, so you’re more likely to have a stress-free experience.”

—Nabeena Mali, co-founder and head of marketing, London, UK

Make comfort your number one mission

“Prioritize comfort. Sprinting through an airport in your stilettos is no way to start a holiday break. My family is non-stop during the holidays, traveling all over the East Coast to make it to everyone’s celebrations. So, I typically dress comfortably for travel, but always wear an outfit that can easily be dressed up with a touch of jewelry or a great pair of heels. Start with a comfortable core, like your favorite pair of colored jeggings and your best over-sized sweater. Then add a pair of booties and a statement necklace when you arrive.”

—Katrina Eicholtz, integrated marketing coordinator, York, PA

Lend a helping hand to other travelers

“As a frequent business traveler, I've developed many tips that can work for holiday season traveling. My favorite one is simple. Help your fellow travelers. Move seats so a couple can sit together, lift a bag into an overhead bin, invite a parent traveling alone to ask for your assistance if need be. If we travel together like we’re all in it together and offer help when needed, we can help reduce the stress of our fellow travelers. Stress is contagious, but so are smiles. So, spread holiday cheer this season to soothe your soul and those around you.”

—Tambre Leighn, behavior change expert, Los Angeles, CA

Repeat affirmations

“Find the beauty in wasting time. Stuck in traffic? Listen to an educational or motivating podcast. Train diversion? Meditate. Waiting in a long queue? Repeat affirmations in your mind. If we enter this festive period with the expectation that external factors will affect our time and energy, but we can make the most of it, we feel more empowered, calmer, and at peace with each situation. Also use this as an opportunity to slow down and observe. Listen, watch, smell, experience and breathe. Life is not a race.”

—Verity Brown, empowerment coach, England, UK

Make the car your entertainment center

“We usually try to plan our holiday travel to places that are driving distance for us, but sometimes, we are brave enough to drive around 1,000 miles. Keeping the kids occupied with little activity boxes and a variety of snack boxes is our trick. We also load up the iPad with tons of movies and rent a bunch of DVDs from Redbox for them to watch on the car's entertainment system. We have wireless headphones for them so the adults don’t have to listen to the dialogue! A few blankets and socks also help them fall asleep easily between their activities and movies. My husband and I typically have a few playlists we like to listen to on long drives, so we stick to them. We also play car games with the kids, like this one: counting the number of a particular color of cars you see on the road. Whoever counts the most gets to choose what we eat at the next stop.”

—Rohini Penumudi, marketing manager, Houston TX

Save up to get out of town

“I make plans for the holidays a month before. Since I live in the city and enjoy spending holidays in the countryside, I book my transportation early and save from the beginning of the year and allocate specific amounts for the holidays. Saving has helped me avoid overspending and only visit places I can afford.”

—Vivian Sharon, content writer, Nairobi, Kenya

Bring a magical “kid’s bag”

“Every time we take a long plane trip for the holidays to see family, I pack a carry-on ‘kid's bag’ for my four-year-old to explore once she's sitting down and buckled in. It’s my magical secret for getting through long trips! It’s the difference between a screaming, frustrated toddler and an engaged, happy, little person. It's just a little bag full of new toys, coloring items, and crafts. They must be things your child hasn't played with in a long time, or new items. Key tip: pack it long in advance, and think of things every day. Waiting until the last minute means you'll be scrambling for items. Also: this doesn't have to be expensive. Little finger toys, crayons, and pieces of colored paper can work!”

—Julia McCoy, author and entrepreneur, Austin, TX

Meditate in flight

“I'm always traveling from coast to coast, and along the way, I've learned to build meditation into my routine. I always pre-download a guided meditation from one of my favorite apps (like Unplug, Calm, or Headspace) that's well-suited for stress and anxiety. As soon as I've gotten on the plane and taken my seat, I put on some noise-canceling headphones and listen, setting me up for a calm, anxiety-free flight!”

—Courtney Cannon-Booth, brand strategist, Los Angeles, CA

Take 10 minutes for yourself

“Going home for the holidays is something I truly look forward to! It's not my entire family gets together at my parents house in southern Indiana, we spend the entire Thanksgiving break together, from Wednesday evening to Sunday. Doing this definitely changes up my normal schedule from going to meetings, the office, working out, teaching classes, etc. When I'm home, helping with cooking, playing with the kids, shopping and relaxing, I sometimes can feel a bit off since my regular routine is out of whack. I make sure that I still take time to do some yoga and meditate each morning. If I don't get that in for a couple days, I can feel the stress and anxiety coming on. Taking at least 10 minutes for myself puts me in the right mood for the rest of the day and so I am my best self for my family. Remember, the holidays are best spent when you bring your best self to the table.”

—Danielle Wolter Nolan, professional wilderness guide and yogi, Nashville, IN

Bring a stash of airplane toys

“Having special airplane toys is a trick I’ve used with my children, and my daughter uses it with her children who travel a lot. Have snacks, of course, but also have toys that can be produced every 20 minutes or so, depending on the child’s concentration. As they get older you can have fewer toys. But there should be a few of them, they should keep appearing and they should be new. As they get older, you can take them to the store before you go on the flight and let them buy their own airplane toys. We did this at the airport. It’s simple, but it works, the children love the novelty and they look forward to getting on the airplane because they know that they’ll have new toys to play with.”

—Dr. Tian Dayton, author, senior fellow, New York, NY

Be strategic

“In order to make holiday travel less stressful, I allot extra time to accommodate large, slow-moving lines. Another important factor is to check in with yourself and your circumstances to determine whether this is a place you actually want to go to. I would advise anyone to avoid toxic gatherings where you are likely to feel miserable. It’s not worth it.”

—Shanice J. Douglas, founder, New York, NY

If you can, stay home

“Christmas Day is spent in our PJs, eating pancakes, and being present with one another. Last year, I was finally able to sell my husband on staying home, instead of giving into the madness of making every aunt, uncle, in-law, and cousin happy. During Christmas week, we always have a pot of coffee on, desserts in the fridge, and offer an ‘open house’ for any family to stop by. It's really helped us focus on the quality of connection with family instead of being with the masses in chaos!”

—Lisa Pezik, business strategist, Ontario, Canada

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