Plan ahead to take the stress out of holiday travel.
Holidays can seem like a blessing or a curse. On the one hand, you will enjoy sharing meaningful moments with family and friends. On the other hand, the stress of holiday commitments, decorating, cooking and purchasing gifts can make you feel like there is not enough minutes in a day. Add traveling out of town during the peak holiday travel season and you may find the stress overwhelming. Do not worry. With a little planning, you can take much of the stress out of holiday travel.
Book your tickets at least six months in advance if you are planning to fly for the holidays. By planning ahead, you can lock in the dates and time that work best for you. If flying as a family, buying your ticket months ahead will guarantee that you will have seats together. Being separated on a packed flight from your young children is a stressful situation that you will wish to avoid at all costs.
Book a flight early in the morning. Flight statistics show that planes earlier in the day have a better on-time performance. Also, if your flight is cancelled, you will have the option of taking a flight later in the day.
Ship presents ahead of time. Plan to purchase presents at least a few weeks before the holidays, and mail them to your family and friends. Some airlines impose restrictions on how much baggage you can check during the holidays, so do not count on being able to bring your presents with you on the flight. If you do travel with presents, do not wrap them. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will need to inspect any wrapped items. Instead, try bringing gift bags with you to quickly wrap your presents upon arrival at your destination.
Bring books, toys, magazines, personal game systems and MP3 players with you to the airport. Have plenty of items to distract you from the crowded airport and packed planes. Distractions are especially important if you are traveling with children. Children handle stressful situations better with distractions, so plan in advance ways to keep the kids entertained. For small children, this may mean buying some small, cheap, "surprise" toys for when they become cranky. For older children, make sure that electronics are fully charged and that you bring extra batteries.
Arrive at the airport at least two to three hours before your flight. Three hours may seem excessive, but during peak travel season your stress level will decrease if you have plenty of time to make it to the airport, find a parking space, navigate through security and find your gate. Remember that sitting in the airport lounge for an extra 30 minutes is much more relaxing than fuming in a traffic jam, worrying that you are going to miss your flight.
Purchase a drink and a snack when you arrive at the gate. Airline delays are not uncommon with the increase in airline traffic holiday, and sitting on the tarmac with no food and water can be uncomfortable.
Practice patience and accept your situation. Take a deep breath and realize that you will eventually make it to your destination. In the weeks before your trip, try to anticipate any problems, and come up with a mental plan for how you would handle the situation. For example, think ahead for what would you do if your flight is cancelled. Then, prepare for this problem by knowing beforehand where the airline's customer service desk is located, what number to call to try to rebook your flight and what other flights leave for your destination later in the day.
Veronica Summers is an Internet pioneer, creating websites for Fortune 500 companies since 1994. In over 15 years of writing for the Web, she has received awards for explaining complex topics in an easy-to-read manner. Summers holds a Bachelor of Science in technical writing from Carnegie Mellon University. She writes computer- and travel-related articles online.
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