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50 Stress-Free Tips for the Clever Holiday Traveler

Traveling for the holidays doesn’t have to be a drag. Sure there are crowds, lines and hold-ups, but if you stay organized and understand you can’t control everything, you’ll have a fairly painless time packing up the kids, making your way to the airport and arriving at your destination in one piece. Remember to plan ahead when it comes to everything to leave room for error. After all, you don’t want to end up plowing your way through the airport like a scene from Home Alone.

Holiday Travel Trips for Packing

Packing is half the battle when it comes to reducing holiday stress. If you travel every holiday season, you’re probably a pro, but there’s always more to learn to maximize your space and minimize the madness.

    1. Get an edit going in your head. Weeks before you travel, start to think about what you’ll be attending while on the trip. This will give you an idea of what type of clothes you need to pack and get your brain moving in that direction, leaving behind excess items that won’t be worn.

    2. Check the weather for the days you’ll be there. The weather seems to be all over the place no matter what part of the country you’re in. Temperatures change drastically daily, so call your friends or family for an idea of what the weather has been like and pack accordingly.

    3. Buy small plastic bottles. These can be purchased at any superstore or drugstore in the travel section. Small plastic bottles allow you to transfer shampoo, soap, lotions and serums so you aren’t stuck taking the entire bottle on your trip.

    4. Buy travel size toiletries. If you don’t travel often, it may be wiser to purchase small bottles of anything you’ll need on your trip. Remember that if you’re staying with family, they’ll have things like shampoo and soap, but if you’re skin is sensitive or you’re a label snob, it’s best to pack your own.

    5. Pre-pack a few days before the trip. A few days before it’s time to travel, pre-pack. This means gathering the items to get a last glance, leaving you plenty of time to pick up things you might need from the store.

    6. Go with a color palette. Men and women (and kids) should have a color palette for travel. This means garments will work with each other and can be used to create more outfits should you need it. Smart options include two neutrals and two or three colors.

    7. Limit your shoes. Most of us only need two pairs of shoes on any given trip. One pair of casual shoes and one pair of dress shoes. For the holidays, you definitely want a pair of dress shoes since you may be going to church or a fancy dinner with family. Do your best to wear one pair of shoes while traveling and pack the other.

    8. Women should accessorize like mad. A statement necklace, patterned tights, a cuff bracelet…these are all small items that are easy to pack and have the power to completely change up an outfit.

    9. Remember to roll your clothing. Rolling your clothing maximizes your space. Fold the garment longways and then roll, making sure to pull the item taut so it rolls up into a tube shape. Place rolled clothing next to each other starting with pants and skirts at the bottom and creating stacks.

    10. Place socks and underwear in shoes. Roll underwear and socks (this takes up less space than balling them) and tuck them into the shoes that are going in your bag or suitcase.

    11. Limit your undergarments. We understand it’s the holidays and every one wants to look their best, but don’t overpack when it comes to undergarments. If you go overboard, it will weigh you down and often you don’t end up wearing everything you take. Women should take one nude bra and one black bra and every person traveling should have a pair of underwear for each day.

    12. Try to stick to one bag per person. If you’re flying, this means you won’t have to check luggage depending on the size, which will save you loads of stress.

    13. You can also take one large suitcase. If you’re traveling with another adult and a child, you may be able to fit all of your items in one large suitcase. The bag will have to be checked, but frees you from carrying anything else through the airport.

    14. Hang some items. Not everyone has a ritzy suitcase with a hanging area, but you can still avoid severe wrinkles by hanging dresses, dress shirts and jackets and then laying them flat on top of the rest of your clothes before zipping up the bag or suitcase.

    15. Don’t fret too much. If you have to buy ponytail holders for your daughter or a toothbrush for your spouse because they forgot, it won’t be the end of the world.

Holiday Travel Tips for Flying

The closer to Christmas you travel, the more hectic the airport will be. Be organized and prepared before you get to there to avoid any snafus that will put a damper on your holiday plans.

    16. Start flight shopping early. There are a very limited number of deals ran for holiday travel. Start shopping early to get the best deal and compare on airlines’ own websites as many will price match the fare found on discount sites.

    17. Buy directly from an airline. We’re all for saving money, but if you aren’t sure about vacation time, when your son’s final exams are happening or anything of the sort, buying directly from an airline usually gives you more leeway for changing flight dates or times.

    18. Put ID tags on all of your bags. This includes personal items that you’re carrying-on. You never know where you may set down your laptop case and walk off without it.

    19. Check in online. Nearly every airline offers an online option for checking in. This can usually be done starting 24 hours before the flight and lets you avoid standing at a kiosk in the airport. This is an essential step if you’re not checking luggage and shave half an hour off your time in the airport.

    20. Keep IDs and passports together. One person, mom or dad, or anyone else who is responsible, should have all forms of identification together. This may will reduce individuals losing their IDs while going through the airport ruckus. If a family all shares the same last name, they can pass through customs together.

    21. Dress for the airport. This means minimal layers and shoes that can easily be removed. Not every airport makes you remove shoes anymore, so you may be able to check online to see the standards practiced at the locations you’re passing through.

    22. Carry some cash. Remember that many airlines now charge for checked luggage. It is fastest and easiest to pay for this with cash, so have $10-$20 per bag with you. The fees for your airline can usually be found online.

    23. Check your route. If your travels call for a connecting flight, do your best to avoid areas with weather problems that could throw a monkeywrench in your plans. These airports include JFK, La Guardia and O’Hare.

    24. Give yourself plenty of time. For international travel, it’s suggested you arrive at the airport two hours before departure. For domestic travel, it’s an hour. This is year round, so give yourself an additional hour during the holidays. It may sound excessive, but if you’ve ever stood in an airport security line on December 23rd, you know it’s well worth it.

    25. Pack snacks. This goes if you’re traveling with kids or not. Snacks on flights and at the airport are overpriced and usually full of sugar and salt. Avoid bloating and arriving to your destination cranky by packing raw almonds, easy-to-eat fruit like bananas and apples and whole grain crackers. If you have a long travel day, pack a sandwich.

    26. Have a designated spot for IDs. Whomever is in charge of IDs should have a designated spot for storing the important documents when they aren’t in use. This can be an envelope or large plastic zip-top bag that can be tucked in a purse or laptop case and easily accessed.

    27. Be pleasant. Airport employees regularly deal with bad attitudes around the clock and during the holidays it gets worse with an influx of travelers who aren’t aware of airport etiquette. A smile goes a long way and even if you’re in a pickle, be pleasant and respectful of whomever you’re speaking to.

    28. Be helpful. If you see a less-seasoned traveler who needs help, offer your services. Sure, you aren’t an airport employee, but in the spirit of the season and just plain human decency, it will do you some good to throw someone a helping hand.

    29. Check your flight before you leave your house. Flights can be cancelled anytime, so just because you checked the night before doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods. Check the flight about an hour before you leave to ensure there are no delays.

    30. Be prepared for something to go wrong. We aren’t saying go in with a bad attitude, but understand that flying for the holidays usually will involve lines, crowds, screaming children and snippy airline employees. Be prepared to weather the storm.

Holiday Travel Tips for Shopping and Gifts

When you’re traveling during the holidays, shopping for gifts can be difficult. While your options are limited, a little planning goes a long way to get everyone checked off your list.

    31. Don’t bother wrapping your gifts. TSA can go through anything they want and they will unwrap a gift if they feel the need to. Skip the risk and wait and wrap gifts once you arrive at your destination.

    32. Ship what you can. To avoid taking tons of gifts on a flight with you, shop ahead of time and ship gifts to your destination. After you arrive, you can buy wrapping supplies and get the gifts ready for giving.

    33. Shop online. .If you’re staying with family or close friends, ask if you can have gifts shipped to their home. This can save you money and time. Most sites offer great shipping deals (like a low flat fee or free shipping) within the U.S. for the holidays.

    34. Embrace gift cards. No, they aren’t the most personal gift ever, but when it comes to nieces, nephews and siblings, there’s a good chance they’ll go nuts for a gift card. Gift cards travel easily and can be purchased according to your budget.

    35. Some gifts should be carried on. If it’s valuable, sentimental or you went to great lengths to get the gift, carry it on. It won’t be worth the hassle or heartache should your luggage get lost and the gift doesn’t make its way to the recipient.

    36. Ask what they want. If you’re wrapping up work, getting your family ready for travel and about to tear your hair out over what to buy for the folks you’re visiting, just ask! There’s a chance they’ll be happy to rattle off a few suggestions and you can pick what’s right for your budget.

    37. Have a few general gifts. Once you arrive at your destination, grab a few general gifts like gift cards for the movies, chocolates and cheeses that you can gift to people who unexpectedly show up at a get-together.

    38. Don’t forget something for the host. If you have everything else delivered, remember to show up with something for your host. It doesn’t have to be fancy. You can opt for a candle, guest soaps or an ornament, but show your gratitude with a small token.

    39. Cushion anything that’s breakable . Wrap the item in a T-shirt, creating a snug barrier around it. Cushion the area around the T-shirt, as well what’s below the item and what’s on top to ensure your item doesn’t break while in transit.

    40. Limit what goes with you.Most holiday flights are packed and there’s no room for an excessive number of carry-on items. You have to pick and choose what must go with you on the flight, so be smart when gift shopping and plan ahead.

Holiday Travel Tips for Traveling with the Kids

Even the most well-behaved child can run amuck when met with crowds, noise and being cramped in an airplane for hours. Here’s our tips for surviving holiday travel when the kids are in tow.

    41. Get organized. Kids often require a load of stuff that adults don’t. Diapers, bottles, gaming devices and a change of clothes are just some of the things to consider when planning what to take in your carry-on. While less is more, getting organized will let you see the reality of the situation so you can make adjustments before you depart.

    42. Have the bribe gifts ready to go. Is this the best way to parent? Of course not, but sometimes it’s necessary. When you’re tens of thousands of feet in the air and your four year old is screaming about forgetting a particular video game, you’ll be glad you had that dollar, candy or new toy ready for battle.

    43. Prep the kids for the airport chaos. Let them know it’s going to be loud, there may be a lot of waiting and they need to stay close to you at all times.

    44. Talk to older kids about goofing off. There’s nothing wrong with having fun, but make it clear to older kids and teenagers that any remarks about bombs are taken seriously and should never be mentioned while at the airport (or anywhere else for that matter).

    45. Hit the bookstore. A few days before you leave, visit the bookstore with kids. Let them each choose a couple of books and give them to the kids once you’re on the flight. This will keep them entertained (at least for awhile).

    46. A pencil and paper. Never underestimate the entertainment that is doodling. Kids from ages 3 to late teens can be occupied for hours with a pencil and notepad. Bring enough for each kid, in case the books and PSPs get boring.

    47. Pack all of the chargers.For gaming devices, MP3 players and cell phones, the kids need chargers. Pack all of them in one place so if a gadget goes down, they know where to find a charger. You don’t want to deal with your 15 year old daughter should her texting capabilities go.

    48. Protect them.Bring pain relievers, cough medicine, bandages with you in case someone needs it. It’s always better to have the cure on hand than have to truck it to the store when your kid is sick.

    49. Let the kids go. If you’re with extended family that your children are seldom around, let them hang out with their cousins and mingle with distant relatives. You don’t have to be with them every waking moment, as it’s your holiday season too.

    50. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. For kids 14, 15 or older, don’t be afraid to ask for their help regarding younger siblings. All siblings should be reminded to look out for each other when traveling and lend a hand when and where they can.

The holidays bring hectic times, but also give us the opportunity to create memories. Do your best to stay positive despite excessive delays and crying babies on your flight. Implementing our tips will put you in the direction of a stress-free travel day that will make you glad to see loved ones when you arrive. It always be worth the hassle when you’re singing carols while sipping hot chocolate or listening to your dad curse out tangled Christmas lights. Safe travels and happy holidays!