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Top Tips for Stress-Free Holiday Travel

Written by Chris Osburn

This blog post was updated on August 6, 2021.

Tis the season – or maybe not quite yet but it’ll be here quicker than you can jingle a bell – for holiday travel. It’s America’s busiest time of the year on the roads and in the air. The span of weeks from right before Thanksgiving to just after New Year’s Day brings a lot of joy, but also a lot of potential stress. It doesn’t have to be that way though.

Here are some merry and bright tips for stress-free holiday travel to help you maximize the good times and celebrate with family and close friends to the fullest.

Make a List and Check it Twice


How does Santa manage his multi-stop itinerary across the globe in a night? It’s not just his flying reindeer, workshop of elves, and diet of cookies and milk speeding him along. By making a list and checking it twice, St. Nick gets where he needs to go without delay. You’d be wise to do do what Santa does.

Make a checklist and stick to it, maybe even a pre-checklist checklist to be well ahead of your travel dates. A simple bullet point reminding you to take your passport to the airport can keep you from having to scramble at the last minute. Having all your confirmation numbers, departure times and such in one easily accessible list (on your phone and a paper backup) can allow you to focus on fun with the family and other meaningful holiday traditions.

Remember: Time is of the Essence


Christmastime is the best time of year. So make the most of it by giving yourself plenty of time to get to the airport, to navigate clogged up highways, and to finish all your shopping and seasonal errands. Arriving a little too early for a flight is always better than being a minute too late. Anticipating traffic, bathroom breaks, and stops for coffee and stretching all add up to a more pleasant and safer drive.

Don’t Forget the Reason for Seasonal Travel


There’s no place like home for the holidays. So, when you start to feel the stress coming on as you embark upon a long journey or encounter any holiday mishaps, simply remind yourself why it is you’re traveling in the first place. Being with loved ones and sharing special moments together is worth a little hassle getting there, right?

If you answered “Yes” to that last question: Phew! Proceed to that warm and fuzzy feeling by sharing a few cups of eggnog topped off with good cheer.

No? Uh oh! Maybe now’s the right time send off some “sorry I can’t make it this year” Christmas cards and book that Caribbean vacation you’ve been dreaming of … or, perhaps just stay put until a less hectic travel period.

Whatever the case, really think about what “home for the holidays” means to you.

Make Sure You Give Thoughtful, Practical Gifts


When it comes to gift giving, it’s the thought that counts. Make sure you’re thoughtful of others’ travel plans when you offer gifts. Is your idea for a gift something that’s fragile, heavy, bulky, filled with liquid, or otherwise a pain to pack? Then it might not be such a smart or appreciated present. Asking people what they want (and really listening to their answer) often works! Likewise, it’s never a bad idea to kindly remind people your preference to travel light and what sorts of gifts you’ve enjoyed in the past.

When in doubt, travel vouchers, gift cards, and shared experiences (such as dinner together at your expense) usually do the trick.

How about you? Got any top tips for stress-free holiday travel? We’d love it if you shared them in the comments section below.

About the author

Chris Osburn

Chris Osburn is a freelance writer, photographer, consultant, and curator and the driving force behind the long running and award winning blog, Originally from the American Deep South, Chris has lived and worked all over the world and has called London home since 2001.

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