It’s the most wonderful time of the year—and the most stressful, too. The Christmas season can be beyond busy for many people, as parties, kids’ concerts, end-of-the-year activities and family visits begin to crowd our already-busy schedules. Throw travel in the mix, and you have a recipe for something a lot less sweet than Grandma’s holiday cookies! Traveling over the holidays doesn’t have to be terrible, though. You can not only survive, but enjoy your busy Christmas trips back home. Here’s how to have a merry little Christmas, where nobody gets run over by a reindeer.
Why is it so difficult for us to plan around the holidays? They come at the end of every year, and yet as soon as November hits, we start running around in panic like a swarm of angry elves just declared war on humankind. This year, do some advance planning! Outline your itinerary well before your trip. Know what you’re going to do for Christmas gifts and keep it simple. This year, I made a custom calendar for everyone in the family. I made one version for my side and one for my husband’s side. Bam. Five hours and $250 later, all 35 family members have a gift that they are happy to receive and I’m proud to give. Speaking of money, make sure you…
Again, why are we always so caught off guard by the cost of Christmas? It comes to drain our bank accounts every single year. If you’re traveling, it’s even more expensive. This Christmas, budget ahead. Know how much you’ll spend on each person, each party, and each ticket. Factor in a cushion and all those little hidden costs (the mall in your parents’ hometown charges for Santa photos, surprise!) so you don’t find yourself taking out a second mortgage in January. How can you make up for the holiday expenditures? Planning your spending takes care of some of that by cutting unnecessary costs. But you can also do other things throughout the year to meet your projected Christmas costs, like eating out less and watching movies at home instead of at the theater.
Stay Calm and Eat a Cupcake
But just one cupcake. Or maybe none at all? Travel is bad enough on your waistline, never mind adding in seventeen types of Christmas cookies! Make a good travel health plan for yourself. How long is that layover—can you walk a few laps around the terminal instead of eating a peppermint milkshake? On your car ride, can you sneak in a few ten-minute stops for walking outside rather than sipping pumpkin spice chai lattes indoors? Make a few changes to your plans and you could survive a holiday trip without adding all those extra calories.
Get Some Alone Time
You love your family (most of the time), but being with everybody during every waking hour can get very old, very fast, especially when the stress of travel is involved. No matter how much Uncle Ralph wants everyone to stay in the same room during the entire trip, save your sanity and take a break now and then. The fastest way to reignite old family feuds and start new ones is to spend so much time together than everyone is sick of each other. With a little bit of time to refresh yourself and clear your mind, you’ll have the energy to smile, make memories, and have a great time with the people you love.
So it’s cold at Grandma’s Montana farmhouse. That doesn’t give you an excuse to pack twelve ridiculously bulky sweaters and every pair of boots you own! Pack smart and pack light. You don’t want to lug all of that stuff through snowy airports (or sunny shores, for you lucky tropical holiday vacationers). Also, make sure you’re leaving room for any Christmas presents you expect to take back so you don’t have to buy another suitcase at the airport. As far as bringing presents along, stick with small things, like gift cards, or buy presents once you get there.
Buy Cheap Tickets
No brainer, right? Duh. Unless you’re a millionaire or something (and don’t you wish you were?) you’re not looking for top-tier, first class tickets. You just want to get to your destination without breaking the bank. In order to do that, you need to buy tickets during the cheapest airfare weeks. That’s about the third week of November for Christmas flights and the first or second week of December for New Year’s Eve flights. Under no circumstances should you wait until the last minute to buy! That’s a good way to get expensive tickets or no tickets at all. If you can, do it on a Tuesday for the best savings possible. If you opt to fly on the actual holiday, you can save even more. You do risk delayed flights on a holiday, though, so don’t do it if it isn’t worth the stress it causes.
Don’t Freak Out
The holidays are stressful. Stuff goes wrong. It’s OK. If you can have a go-with-the-flow attitude and take the unexpected in stride, you’ll have way more fun on your holiday trip. Make a pact with yourself and your spouse, friend, mom, whoever, that you’ll relax and have fun on your trip. Setting yourself up for positivity and a good attitude ahead of time can give you the upper hand over stress and make this trip as fun as it’s supposed to be.
Follow these few tips for surviving your holiday travels, and you’ll be able to actually enjoy your time with friends and family. May your days be merry and bright!