Tips for Trips: Organized Holiday Travel
Traveling for the holidays can add a whole new level of stress to the season. In addition to the decorations, shopping, and wrapping, you have to add reservations, packing, and contingency plans to the mix.
When you travel at the busiest time of year, a lot of things are out of your control -- delays and cancellations, crowded airports, lost luggage, traffic jams, and missed connections. A little planning and organization can go a long way toward making your trip enjoyable. Here are some of our favorite tips to manage away some of the stress.
It’s always best to start with the basics – the who, what, where, when, and why of your trip, including the activities you will enjoy at your destination. First, calendar all of your travel dates and times, social obligations, church services, family traditions, and recreational activities. Decide what clothing, accessories, shoes, etc. you will need for each event. Use that as a starting point for your packing lists.
You already know how important checklists can be when preparing for a trip, and at Christmas time, it’s doubly so. This is another area where technology can be a huge help. The Cozi Family Organizer is a free app that is a great tool for posting itineraries, to-do lists, shopping lists, activities, and more. It acts as an information hub for the family, and you can set it up to send reminders and notifications to family members as appropriate. Other apps, like Packable and Packing List for Travelers, focus solely on packing that all-important suitcase to ensure you don’t leave anything important behind.
Check any prescription medications to make sure you have enough to get you through your trip, with a few extra in case you are delayed in returning home. Notify your pharmacy that you are leaving for a trip, as special authorization may be required from the insurance company to refill a prescription early. If you rely on glasses to find your way around, request a written copy of your prescription from your eye doctor and carry it with you. If your glasses are lost or broken, you should be able to replace them at a same-day optical lab at your destination.
Ship your gifts ahead of time. When flights are crowded, luggage is more likely to get lost or left behind due to space concerns. Ship your gifts together after you purchase them, or send online purchases directly to your destination.
Consider packing one small carry-on with essentials for the entire family. If you are forced to check individual carry-on bags because the overhead bins are full, you’ll still have the basics if your checked luggage is delayed or lost. Think packable, double-duty items like leggings or sweatpants, socks and underwear, and T-shirts or sweatshirts. If there’s room, you can slip in pajamas and an extra set of socks and underwear. Carry medications in your purse or a small bag that will fit under the seat in front of you.
Take advantage of airline services designed to make things easier, like online check-in, electronic boarding passes, curbside baggage check, and text notifications about flight status. Check out the MyTSA app, available on Google Play or the App Store. The app offers information about TSA rules, preparing to go through the security checkpoint, typical wait times on your day of travel, weather delays and cancellations, and more. For more information, visit https://www.tsa.gov/mobile.
If you don’t want your trip to wind up like the Griswold’s, you’ll need to do some planning for that as well. Consider packing unwrapped gifts among your clothing to protect them. It’s still a great idea to have a grab-and-go bag of essentials in case of emergency – if you break down, a tow truck operator may have room for you, but not all of your luggage. You should still keep medications in your purse, so you don’t have to dig them out of a packed trunk if you are delayed.
Traffic jams and bad weather can affect your ability to travel safely and arrive on time. Make sure your car is well stocked with safety equipment, plus hand wipes, tissues, snacks, and water. Toss in a trash bag or two, and a plastic container to use if someone is sick. If you have room, add a few blankets to help keep you warm if your car breaks down or you run out of gas. Car adapters for charging your devices is a must, and earbuds will help prevent arguments about media being played in the car.
An app like Waze can help you identify hazards and delays ahead, and offer re-routing options. Be sure to have a navigator in charge of monitoring the app, or enable audio alerts so you don’t have to risk looking at your phone. These apps can also help you find places to stop for gas, food, and lodging. Auto insurance companies, AAA, and other organizations, offer travel planning services and discounts that can make travel by car much easier.
Finally, never underestimate the importance of being comfortable and content in making a car trip go smoothly. Shearling shoulder belt covers can make wearing a safety belt more comfortable for everyone. Rather than cramming the car full of activities, consider suspending your family screen time rules for the duration of the trip to keep the peace. If any family members are prone to car sickness, ask your physician in advance for prescription or OTC remedies to treat it.
With just a little advance planning and organization, you can turn your travel time into an enjoyable part of your holiday adventure!