Family Life

Your Ultimate Guide to Holiday Travel

You probably don’t have to go over the river and through the woods to get to Grandma’s house for the holidays — but traveling to your relative’s house during this time of year is often still stressful. You can take some of the frustration and worry out of your trip, however, if you follow these tips.


Plan Ahead for Gifts

One of the biggest questions facing holiday travelers every year is, “What do you do with the gifts?” This can be a problem both coming and going because of the demands on your space in your bags or trunk.


The best way to handle it depends on how you plan to get to your destination. If you’re going by car, wrap your gifts before you pack them and skip the bows so you don’t have to worry about them getting crushed in the trunk. If you’re going by air, buy the gifts early and send them ahead to your destination by UPS or settle on gift cards that can be easily tucked into your carry-on bags. 


Know How to Pack

If you’re traveling by plane, make certain that you check the newest updates to the Transportation Security Administration’s guidelines about what you can and cannot take on the plane. Ideally, aim to pack light enough so that you can avoid checking your bags altogether. Pick up your toiletries after you get to your destination and avoid the hassle of picking up your luggage (or worrying that it will get lost).


If you’re traveling by car, you can be a little more liberal with what you bring but pack any liquid or spillable items (like toothpaste or aftershave) in separate Ziploc plastic bags so that you don’t have to worry about something leaking all over everything you brought. Medication and other important items, like your contact case and glasses, should have a bag of their own that can be grabbed quickly if you need it.


Keep Comfort Items Close at Hand

Your holiday travels can be a lot more comfortable if you pack a “Go” back for the plane or car with care. While you (or your kids) may have a few favorite comfort items that go everywhere with you, a long trip means going beyond the basics. 

Here’s our list of “must-have” items for winter travel by plane or car:

  • One cozy fleece blanket for each person
  • Earplugs and eye masks for anybody who needs to sleep on the way
  • A book, magazine or coloring books and crayons to alleviate boredom
  • Anti-nausea motion sickness medication for anybody who needs it
  • Portable battery chargers for your smartphone

These can help you mentally escape if you need to during your trip (as long as you aren’t driving).


Don’t Let the Munchies Disrupt the Trip

This is no time of the year to hit the highway while you’re hungry or board a flight on an empty stomach. Weather delays, holiday congestion and traffic accidents alike can lead to extended times on your trip — and that can be miserable when you’re hungry. Even if you’re traveling by car, a random attack of the munchies (especially from the kids) can lead to unnecessary stops.

Pack a few snack packages of cheese and crackers, pretzels or granola bars to keep everybody’s stomach from growling. If you’re traveling by car, you can also take a few bottles of water and a tray of holiday cookies along.


Make Use of Travel Technology

One of the most inconvenient aspects of traveling away from home during the winter is the fact that you probably don’t know what to expect on the road. Ice, snow and road construction can be an issue whether you’re making the entire trip by car or are just trying to get to an airport on time.

Ease your burden and eliminate problems by downloading a few apps to your phone that are designed to make travel easier. Here in Indiana, you can use the INDOT Mobile app to get updates on road conditions and traffic jams. Other states offer similar apps through their transportation departments and you can also use apps like iExit to scope out what’s available by a given exit if you need to stop for a break. Air travelers can make use of the map provided by the Federal Aviation Administration to warn flyers of delays at major airports.


Remember These Rules

Finally, there are a few other travel rules that it pays to remember if you want a peaceful, stress-free trip:

  • Give a trusted relative, friend or neighbor your spare key. That way, if you start worrying that you forgot to turn off the lights on the tree before you left or you’re worried that the sudden cold snap will freeze your pipes while you’re gone, you can handle the issue with a quick phone call.
  • Make sure that all the household phones are charged before you leave and keep the charging cords handy so that you can power back up when needed.
  • Plan at least an hour of extra time into your schedule. If something happens that’s out of your control, you’ll be less anxious about making it to your destination or flight on time.

Ultimately, if you try to see your holiday travels as an adventure, that can help keep you in the right frame of mind to handle whatever comes your way. Just crank up the Christmas carols, grab a cookie and enjoy the scenery along the way!