Thanksgiving is the busiest travel season of the year. Roughly 50.9 million people traveled 50 miles or further for Thanksgiving last year. That’s a whole lot of travelers! This year alone, I boarded 26 flights, one cruise, several trains, and 3 car trips. In other words, I have had practice in keeping my cool and staying comfortable while on the road.
If you are boarding a plane, train, or car this season, I have a few tips for you. These suggestions will help you keep your peace of mind, feel as comfortable as possible, and get you to your destination feeling refreshed. I use these tips whenever I travel, especially for work and during busy travel days. I hope you all enjoy and have a safe travel season.
My Top 10 Travel Tips For The Holiday Season
1) Bring Water & Food
The biggest way to prevent mood swings and grouchiness is by packing water and food. It’s the one thing most people forget and end up spending a ton of money on at the airport or train station. If you are driving, it’s always essential to have water and food in the car, God forbid, the car breaks down somewhere.
Fueling your body and staying hydrated is key to feeling comfortable in seemingly stressful situations and for any long travel day. I like to pack a water bottle that I can refill as well as snacks that are high in protein. For instance, nuts, protein bars, hummus & crackers are all great snacks to pack. Cliff bars and Luna bars are a personal favorite if you need ideas for protein bars. I’ve seen some savvy travelers pack whole meals in Tupperware, such as salads and sandwiches. I do this occasionally when I am on a road trip that’s 8 hours or longer.
2) Noise Cancelling Headphones are Saviors
Since getting away from the crowds during the holiday travel season is nearly impossible, noise cancelling headphones are saviors. It’s a small way to tune everyone else out. I personally love Bose headphones the most, as they are comfortable to wear for an extended period of time. To me it is worth the investment, especially if you are a frequent traveler. The ability to flip a switch and the whole world around you becomes silent is a gift. There are many times I don’t even listen to music or a movie, I just wear them for the noise cancelling aspect.
Noise cancelling headphones are great for planes and trains once on board, and an easy way to fall asleep on your way to your destination.
3) Arrive Early
To reduce stress, allow yourself plenty of time to get where you are going. This may mean leaving earlier than normal for the airport, train station, or setting off on your road trip. Traveling during the holiday season can be stressful in itself, so taking the pressure of getting their in time really helps ease the tension.
By giving yourself ample time, it can make the process a lot more fun too. I often treat myself to a coffee or hot chocolate on the way to the airport or train station. Even when I am in the car driving, by giving myself enough time I make a stop and grab a hot drink for the ride. It makes the entire process more enjoyable and exciting.
4) Patience is key
With 50 million other travelers, it’s a little more likely things to be delayed. Brace yourself for an experience that would normally be smooth and quick, filled with a couple extra bumps in the road. Patience is key, try to remember to breathe during those uncomfortable moments. Everyone else is in the same boat as you, it’s just part of the holiday travel experience. Keep saying to yourself, “there is really nothing much more you can do about the situation”.
Instead of look at all the things going wrong, try to shift your attention to all the things going right. You are safe, you have a seat, you are about to see people whom you love. You are lucky enough to travel. You have the ability to meet new travel companions. You are about to eat some really delicious food! All of these little tricks keep me mentally sane during high packed travel times.
5) Find a lounge to chill out
If you know you’re going to be in an airport or train station for a few hours, try to find a lounge you can check into. Some airports offer open lounges that you pay a fee to enter. Credit cards and airline carries often have perks for their loyal members that include complimentary airport lounge passes. I know American Express has a slew of lounges available for their members to use.
So what’s inside an airport lounge, and why would it be worth the extra costs? To start, they aren’t as packed as the terminal lounge areas. Meaning more space to stretch out and relax. They also include complimentary food, snacks, and drinks. It’s a great place to do any additional work or read the newspaper that they provide. I love that most have a bathroom attached that is less hectic than the terminal restrooms.
6) Pay extra for the seat you desire
Speaking of upgrades, I highly suggest paying for the seat you want when it comes to trains and airplanes. I am a huge aisle seat person. I like to be able to get up any point of the flight (or train trip) I wish without having to disturb my neighbor. It’s just who I am, I like my freedom to roam and get claustrophobic otherwise. If you are 6 feet tall, I would recommend splurging on extra leg room to make the journey more comfortable. If you enjoy looking out the window, go for it! If it’s not available, try economy plus for an extra $50-80.
If you have the means to bump yourself up to business or first class, this is the time to do so. There are a few things you can control during the holiday travel season, picking your seat on your journey home is one of them. Take full advantage of it and make sure you are very comfortable!
7) Bring plenty of entertainment
I stock up on entertainment on nearly every trip I take. Mainly because I have been that person who had no way of passing time on very long excursions. I would bank on the planes showing movies, and those were the times that the plane didn’t have screens. So from experience, I’ve learned to carry one reading material, one source of music, and one source of electronics (kindle, laptop, phone) that has games or movies available. Three things in total that has ample of entertainment for my trips. It’s not a lot to carry, but it sure makes the flight, train, or car ride more fun.
8) Have a running log of gratitude
This is something I started recently that drastically improved my mood while traveling. I have a running log of how I am feeling and what I am grateful for on my phone. Sometimes it turns into a therapy session. Sometimes it turns into a long winded prayer to God for sanity and peace of mind. There have even been times when I am in the middle of an anxiety attack, on the plane, without any wifi and I start writing to calm myself down. This rarely happens, but this past summer when I was a bundle of raw nerves, it happened frequently. So if you have anxiety or panic attacks while flying, I highly recommend this trick of writing what you are feeling and following up with positive affirmations. It completely changes your perspective and alleviates negative emotions quickly.
However, now I use this tip mostly to stay present. I jot down how I am feeling in the moment and write down what I am happy about. This keeps me feeling satisfied and enjoying the fun part of traveling.
9) Pack Lightly
This is a big pro tip! More than likely there will be times that you’ll have to carry the bag your packed, even if it is a roller suitcase. Not all public transportation has escalators or elevators. Even at Penn station in New York City, I have had to carry my roller suitcase countless times. There are only a few elevators available and only 10 minutes after track announcement to board the train. Believe me, there is no other way to get on board then to carry what I packed.
Also, if you are able to skip checking bags at airports, this saves so much time, money, and stress. You completely avoid the lines for checking bags, you save money from having to pay for a checked bag, and the biggie… you completely escape the chance of having your luggage lost. You also can save time by not having to wait for your luggage at the carousel once you have arrived and go straight to your destination. If you have trouble packing lightly, you can read my tips on how to avoid over packing.
10) For long hauls, have sleep time essentials
If you are taking a red eye, traveling on the train overnight, or have a long road trip ahead of you, pack sleep time essentials! You have no idea how much of a difference this makes in feeling rested and refreshed when arriving at your destination. A few ideas of what to pack are pajamas, eye mask, ear plugs, and sleeping aids if you have trouble falling asleep ( contact your doctor before taking any over the counter medicines). I never realized the value of a eye mask until I bought one and used them on a red eye flight. Holy wonders does it make a difference. Getting enough sleep is essential for a comfortable holiday travel experience. Do whatever you can to assure you get the sleep you need on your travels.
Those are my top 10 travel tips for the holiday season. If you have any additional suggestions for making the journey more comfortable, please share below for our fellow travelers to read! See you next time, safe travels!