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How To Reduce The Stress of Holiday Travel 

stressful woman looking at her cellular phone
Allianz - stressful woman looking at her cellular phone

When you think of the holidays, you probably look forward to good food, quality time with friends and family, and gift-giving. But unless you’re the host, holidays usually involve some amount of travel. And if you’ve meandered far from home base, travel may involve catching a flight. So, while a lucky few get to focus on hanging stockings and roasting chestnuts, some of us have to relentlessly check flights, carefully pack bags, and figure out how to get from point A to point B during one of the busiest travel times of the year.

Sound familiar? Holiday travel is stressful, that’s just the way of it. But with a little bit of planning, many deep breaths, and a backup plan or two, you just might make it through your holiday travel unscathed.

Control What You Can

  • Book the early flight: Do you tend to skip right over the flights that would drag you out of bed before dawn? We get it. Waking up early bites. But as a rule, early flights are less likely to be delayed. So if you’re trying to improve your chances of running on schedule, those yawn-inducing 6 a.m. flights may be the ticket. Just make sure to brew an extra strong cup of coffee for the ride to the airport.1
  • Direct is best: Whenever possible, shoot for a direct flight. While it may come at a higher price point, a direct flight can pay off in the long run. Indirect flights add another unpredictable variable (read: opportunity for a mishap) to your holiday travel. If you can’t avoid a stop, use a little strategy when choosing where you’ll have your layover. If you have the choice, aim for an airport that has a lower likelihood of inclement weather. Some airports are notorious for delays and cancellations, so avoiding an airport with a bad reputation can do wonders for your stress levels.
  • Leave early: We’re talking, way earlier than you think you need to. Yes, even if you’re a seasoned traveler who is no stranger to sliding into the airport last minute. Your holiday travel plans are not the time to leave things to fate. Build in time for a flat tire and a long line at security, just to be safe. It’s much better to have an hour or two to kill than to roll up to your gate as your plane is taking off without you.
  • Stick to a carry-on: Whenever possible, avoid checking a bag. You can fit quite a bit in a carry-on suitcase, and if you’re headed to stay with family you can throw a load in the wash if you run out of clothes. By keeping your luggage with you, you take the possibility of the airline losing your bag off the table. You also get the benefit of bypassing the entire baggage claim process when you land and you’ll have less to lug around over the holiday.

Prepare for Hiccups

  • Download your favorites: Before you leave home, download plenty of podcasts, standup routines, and movies. They’ll help the travel pass quickly, and in the case of a delay, you’ll have a distraction ready to go. And if meditation is your thing, you can even download some guided meditations just in case your holiday travel plans start to spiral.2
  • Create a boredom-buster kit: If you’re traveling with children, you need to have a few tricks up your sleeve to prevent meltdowns. Try putting together a small bag with activities to entertain your kids. Then, whip it out when they ask “are we there yet?” for the 100th. It’s especially helpful if you bring toys, games, or puzzles that your child hasn’t seen before so that you can use the novelty to your advantage! It’s like a mini Christmas morning before the main event.3

Have a Backup Plan When Possible

  • Things may still go wrong: Even if you book your flight early, show up on time, and play by all the rules, holiday travel can still be a pain. All it takes is one bad snowstorm or a simple mechanical error and your careful planning goes right out the window. Try to shift your mindset. If you go into your holiday travel journey open to the fact that something to go wrong, it won’t be quite so stressful when it does. Bring a portable phone charger, a travel pillow, and some snacks with you. Best case, you won’t need them. But in the event that you’re delayed, you won’t starve, you can use your devices, and you can catch a snooze. You know, the essentials.
  • In fact, they may go really wrong: Airlines aren’t necessarily responsible for costs you incur due to flight delays or cancellations. Holiday travel can be expensive, and if a flight delay causes you to miss out on pre-paid lodging or experiences, you can be out the money. Consider travel protection through Allianz Global Assistance; we have travel insurance plans to match your budget and itinerary. And if you’re really striving for worry-free travel, a travel insurance plan pairs nicely with the TravelSmart app, which provides on-the-go access to your policy, claims, and other resources.4

When you have travel insurance from Allianz Global Assistance in your back pocket, you can relax knowing that if your holiday travel goes awry, you have a team waiting in the wings to minimize your losses.

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