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Tips for Smooth Holiday Travel

Dec/10/2023 / by sweta-vikram

How to minimize the stress on your year-end vacation

South Asian woman in sunglasses and hat sitting near the sea with blue suitcase
Photo via Shutterstock

Being able to travel is a gift and a privilege. Travel enables us to experience the world, discover new places and cultures, connect with our loved ones, sample different cuisines, and to take a deep dive into our creativity. I am always inspired to write when we travel.

But let’s face it—no matter where you live or how you travel, holiday travel can be riddled with anxiety and stress. From the long wait at airports and flight delays to being stuck in traffic for hours on end, it all builds stress.

As someone who is on the go a lot, I have compiled a list of suggestions that can help make your holiday travel less stressful.

Create a Contingency Plan

If you are traveling solo, impromptu might work because it involves only you. But if you are traveling with your partner, family, or friends, have a backup plan in place. It saves time, reduces chaos, and minimizes arguments. 

Arrive Early

When my husband and I flew to Spain during Christmas, the check-in lines were unusually long. We almost missed our flight, even though we reached the airport 2.5 hours early. Unforeseen circumstances can crop up, so give yourself plenty of time for it.  I understand that seasoned business travelers like to reach the airport just in time for their flight. But holiday travel can be messy. Keep extra time as a buffer. If you arrive early at the airport or train or bus station, read a book or listen to music and get some downtime before your trip.

Pack Light

I used to always check in my luggage because one needs dumbbells, seven pairs of shoes, and multiple journals on vacation (not really!). And until I saw my bags at baggage claim, I wondered if they would make it. Would I have to go shopping for stopgap measures in a new place that we were visiting for a few days? Did I tell you that I don’t enjoy shopping? In 2023, in my attempt to declutter my emotions, I also started to bring the lightness into my travels. From Italy to Canada to Florida, I traveled with a carry-on. My exit time from the airport and stress levels about potentially lost luggage has dramatically reduced.

Rely On Breathing Techniques

Pranayama or the yogic art of breathing can help detoxify our mind and body. Deep breathing and alternate nostril breathing are fantastic for lowering nervous energy and calming the mind. They help release stress and work as a good distraction.

Plan Your Food

When we were in Tuscany earlier this year, I had severe food insecurity. There was minimum vegetarian fare at every restaurant. After two nights of pasta and risotto, I wanted options that weren’t carb-heavy and doused in cream and cheese (aka unhealthy). So we found a farmers’ market and bought fresh fruits for dinner.

Do your research and be honest about your food preferences. Look up local bakeries. During the holiday season, make reservations early because everyone in the world wants a table at peak dinner time. Pack your comfort foods from home—like a snack or cereal bars.

Move Your Body

While it might be tempting to sit at a bar inside the airport or eat fast food to cope with travel stress, consider moving your body instead. Choose stairs instead of the elevator. Ignore the moving walkway and choose to walk instead. I get to the airport early and use the time to walk around the terminal and get my steps in. I have found secluded corners and done squats too. In the world of yoga, we say movement helps release stagnant energy before a long trip.

Slow Down

It’s human tendency to maximize on our travels. But less is more, trust me. If your vacation involves visiting eight cities in 10 days and changing hotel rooms every other day, it will burn you out. Spend a few nights in one city. Get to know it. Rest. Holiday travels also bring crowds, so make sure you have enough energy to navigate a new place, people, and crowds.

Tame Your Itinerary

I know I sound preachy when I say this, but there is a difference between having a plan and an demanding schedule that keeps you on the go from 5am till 10pm. You don’t want to fill your days with so many things that it increases your anxiety about whether you’ll make your next stop.

Pack Something That Comforts You

I always carry Wagh Bakri’s Instant Chai and a chic 2- cup water heater wherever we travel. Once we check into our hotel or Airbnb, that steaming hot cup of chai grounds me. Find that one item that calms you and brings joy in your life. Bring it with you on your trip.

The more you travel, the more you learn. I prefer to reach a new place when it’s still bright out and we can get a feel for the place. You figure out your preferences. 

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” ~ Helen Keller

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