9 Hacks For Reducing Travel Stress This Holiday Season

by Emma McGowan

Are you planning on traveling this holiday season? If your answer is “yes,” you’re not alone. In fact, you can be absolutely sure that you’ll be joined by literally millions of other Americans on the roads, rails, and in planes. Last year, AAA estimated that a record 107.3 million Americans would be traveling 50 miles or more between December 23 and January 1. If the trend continues — and there’s no reason to think it wouldn’t — then holiday travel at the end of 2018 will likely be just as hectic.

While travel is stressful for many people no matter the time of year, holiday travel can be particularly stressful. First, there are the aforementioned crowds. Second, if you don’t travel much but you’re traveling for the holiday, you’re more likely to be stressed by the unfamiliar situation. Third, if you do travel much, the holiday season is something of an “amateur hour,” as you’re surrounded by people who aren’t as used to the flow of travel as you are. And, fourth, there’s always the possibility that a delay will keep you from your loved ones, especially for those traveling on a tight schedule.

So if you’re dreading traveling this holiday season, I don’t blame you! I was traveling full-time for over five years, moving to a new country every three to nine months, and I always went home to Vermont for Thanksgiving — no matter where in the world I was living. It’s safe to say that I have a lot of experience with travel stress in general and holiday travel stress in particular. Here are tips from Emily Brockway and Marc Escapa of Noken, a new travel service that curates balanced trips reducing holiday travel stress, along with some of my own, for reducing travel stress this holiday season. Good luck!


Research Your Options Prior To Delays

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Anyone who’s ever been delayed while traveling knows what a headache it can be. You’re stuck in a random city. You have to pay for a hotel room and for food. And during the holiday season, there are hundreds of other people in the same situation! Brockway suggests doing your research and planning what you’ll do in case of a delay before you leave.

“Some surprising sources of help in times of delay include credit cards with trip delay reimbursement,” Brockway says. “The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is a favorite of ours because it will reimburse you for meals and lodging if you’re stuck, which is when you really need the help!”


Bring A Well-Packed Carry On


Don't forget about the potential for delays when you're packing you carry-on. “No matter how much you prepare, sometimes delays can happen,” Brockway says. “Pack your carry-on with everything you could need over the span of 12 hours, so you’re never without your essentials! Little items such as a contact case, a travel pillow or a snack, can make your time spent waiting immensely more enjoyable.”


Be Nice To Airport Workers

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Holiday travel isn’t just stressful for travelers — it’s also stressful for the people working in the airport. And you know what doesn’t help anyone’s stress? Taking out your frustration on the person behind the counter. I always make sure to be extra smiley and polite when I’m traveling, particularly in airports, because I’ve found that those folks are often treated like garbage. It not only makes me feel better but also, I hope, perks up their stressful day a little bit.


Reduce Your Jet Lag

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Sleep deprivation doesn't just make you cranky, but it could be adding to stress too. "Reduce your jet lag and your crankiness with Timeshifter,” Escapa says. “Timeshifter is one of our favorite apps! Whenever I commute back home to Spain from the United States, Timeshifter is my go-to way to make sure I’m catching those ZZZs, as it gives you suggestions on when to sleep, nap and drink caffeine so that you feel best adjusted to your new time difference.”


Charge Your Devices Beforehand

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Make sure all of your devices are charged before you even leave for the airport. The number of outlets in airports hasn’t caught up to the number of devices we carry. And plugs on the plane? They work maybe 50 percent of the time. So if you’re going to be relying on your phone or tablet or computer on your trip, make sure they’re all fully charged before you leave.


Don’t Rely On Airplane Wifi


Airplane wifi is notoriously unreliable, so if you’re planning on using the flight time to catch up on emails? Don’t. As a freelance writer, I often work from planes, but I make sure to pull up all of the websites I need for research before I head to the airport. That way I’m not stuck twiddling my thumbs when the wifi isn’t working or is too slow to load anything.



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The wifi in airports is incredibly insecure. With so many people able to access it at any given moment, it’s a hot spot for cyber criminals to intercept your data and steal your personal information. And can you imagine anything more stressful than holiday travel that also includes identity theft??

But that doesn’t mean you have to completely avoid using the wifi at the airport! You should just do it with a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which is a piece of software that encrypts your data, ensuring no one can steal it. VPNs are a great way to protect yourself and still take advantage of that free wifi.


Take Your Things Off The Security Scanner

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This tip might be more about reducing the stress of other travelers than it is about your reducing your stress, but I firmly believe that lower stress all around is good for everyone! So, please, listen to me when I say: Take. Your. Things. Off. The. Security. Scanner.

What I mean is, don’t stand there in front of the conveyor belt with your trays sitting there, slowly piecing your bag together, putting on your shoes, and doing up your belt. When you leave your trays on the security scanner conveyer belt, you back up everyone behind you.


Wash Your Hands


No one wants to be sick for the holidays, but how many of us have battled illness after traveling? There are a lot of people from a lot of different places with a lot of different germs in large transit centers like airports and train stations. Protect yourself from those germs by washing your hands frequently. I make it a policy to wash mine after going through security (those trays are nasty), at least once on the plane, and then immediately when I get off the plane. I also try really hard not to touch my face while I’m in flight, as it’s very likely that my hands have picked up something from the tray or armrest.

And, of course, there will undoubtedly be some major stressors when you're holiday traveling. But it doesn't have to ruin your trip. Follow these tips and remind yourself: It will be over soon!