Decrease Your Travel Stress This Holiday Season

Six tips for a merry ride past security and onto your destination.

Posted Dec 06, 2015

Stock photo from
Source: Stock photo from

Although traditionally a time for cheer, mugs of hot chocolate and curling up with blankets in front of the fire place, the images of such leisure are sometimes deceiving.  Perhaps it’s because you’re still running around trying to get holiday shopping done, or you’re waiting to get to grandma’s house until you finally relax.  What’s undeniable is that an increasing stressor during the holidays is travel. 

In my therapy practice, often the looming prospect of travel is enough to send my patients into a state of panic.  Getting past security without missing their flights, canceled flights due to bad weather, the list of potential concerns can go on.  However, with careful planning and organization, holiday travel doesn’t have to be difficult. 

Step 1: Assess Your Wardrobe

It’s not just about what outfits you’re packing, it’s also about what you literally wear into the airport.  You’ll likely be removing shoes, might have a draft on the plane, and may have a layover that leaves you with hours to spare.  So dress comfortably!  You don’t need to emulate the sometimes disheveled style of A-list actors and actresses who attempt to go undercover with sweats and hats.  Think warm and comfortable, shoes that are easy to remove, maybe a shawl or blanket, but also a bag that can hold extra layers as they come off or are added.  Nothing is worse than going through terminals with sweaters hanging off your arm while you lug your suitcase, personal item, reading materials and snacks.  So bring a bag big enough to fit these items without weighing yourself down either.  Fine balance to find, but critical nonetheless.

Step 2: Check Your Bags

I know.  No one wants to do this.  With airlines charging for everything (pretty soon, filtered clean oxygen onboard), we often like the idea of saving that extra $25-$50 by not checking a bag.  But if you have a layover, unless you want to walk around the airport with a ball and chain, check the bag!  Having made many a transcontinental flight, I know just what a pain it is bringing in your bag to the bathroom stall.  Further, long flights don’t always allow for the opportunity to move about and stretch your legs.  When you’re freed of excess baggage, you can easily take a walk, move about, and recharge.      

Step 3: Bring Snacks and An Empty Water Bottle

Now here is where I allow for some frugality.  Airports famously raise the price of everything from bananas to plain water.  A pre-travel grocery trip is always one of my essentials.  Apples, bananas, something sweet to much on, trail mix, you name it.  Especially if you want to eat healthy, you must be prepared to bring your own items.  Read one of my favorite articles here on healthy snack travel tips from the Food Babe.

Step 4: Be Sure to Bring Reading Material or Other Entertainment

I’ll never forget the flight I once took where I was endlessly entertained by the woman across the row from me.  As she settled into her seat, she put on her cuticle oil, moisturized her hands, purchased the on-air internet and brought out her iPad and stowed it in the seat pocket for easy access.  Once we reached the appropriate cruising altitude, she watched films, snacked on caramels she had packed and read a book.  She looked thoroughly content and absorbed the entire flight.  I, on the other hand, had skimped on purchasing reading materials and bringing adequate snacks, and was relying on SkyMall to keep me entertained on a 5 hour flight.  Lesson learned.  Now, every time I fly, I’m ready with my stack of HGTV, Yoga Journal, and other magazines.  After all, even if you do have in-flight entertainment, you never know if you’ll be in the seat whose headset doesn’t work!

Step 5:  Leave Valuables at Home

We’ve all been there—somehow we are slowed down in the security line, and away goes our laptop and phone on the conveyor belt way ahead of us.  The airport screening zone is packed and you crane your head to keep an eye on your bag while trying not to look “suspicious.”  Make it easy on yourself and don’t even travel with these items if you can.  There have been a handful of times when my laptop has been a necessity, but truthfully, these times are few and far in between.  In fact, unplugging is always recommended by therapists.  So give yourself a tech vacation.  Maybe you bring your phone, but don’t put it somewhere accessible by others if going through security.  Put it in an inner zippered compartment.  And if you decline exposing yourself to those ambiguously described “safe” x-ray machines, you don’t have to let your bags go ahead of you.  You can actually hold onto them until someone comes to screen you separately.  As for Christmas gifts, you can always send them ahead!

Step 6: Spoil Yourself

Unless you are a professional business traveler, traveling tends to be infrequent.  So use these unique opportunities to spoil yourself.  My personal rule is that the only time I’m allowed to purchase celebrity gossip magazines is at the airport.  So 2-3 times a year, I let myself indulge.  The same goes for pretzel M&Ms.  So figure out what your guilty pleasure may be, and consider allowing it during travel.  Naturally, traveling can increase our anxieties as we are completely out of control.  We may have a flight changed or cancelled.  We may get a lousy seat or lots of turbulence.  It can certainly be uncomfortable at times.  So taking extra special care of yourself can help!  Just be sure to lay off the coffee and lattes, as the caffeine in those can make the jittery among us a little extra jumpy!

So go ahead, and get started on your holiday travel planning early this year.  Allow yourself to enjoy it!  Stressed about dealing with family once you arrive?  Read about tips for tackling family drama this holiday season in the next post!

For more holiday travel cheer follow me on Twitter at MillenialMedia.