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Tips to Make Your Holiday Travel Plans A Lot Less Stressful

Traveling during the holidays can be a hassle. We’ve all been there, filling your suitcase to the brim with clothes (so much so that it barely zips), running through the extremely crowded airport to make your flight, and finally sitting on the airplane just to realize you’ve forgotten something. Let’s just say, it’s a stressful ordeal. I’ve done my fair share of traveling during the holidays, and my family has a reputation of always running around at the last minute (like the McCallisters in “Home Alone”), despite the wishes of my dad who insists on being at the airport two hours prior to the flight. Because of these experiences with my family, I’ve picked up some tips to make it way easier for you and everyone who may be involved in your holiday travel plans. 

Photo courtesy of Eva Darron on Unsplash

It’s All About Preparation. 

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from booking my own flights, it’s so much better to do it earlier rather than later before prices go up. Once you know your plans are a go, book the ticket! I’ve made the mistake of waiting just a day longer, and the prices on my tickets rose almost $50;  that’s a lot of money I could have saved had I just booked the flight. As a plus, a lot of airlines have flexible policies that make it easy to cancel or change your flight if you need to, so booking early shouldn’t feel so daunting. Along with saving money, look at every airline you can think of if you’re trying to get the cheapest option. For example, a flight to New York on Southwest could cost between $200 and $300, but on JetBlue, it may be $100 to $150. Sites like Expedia or Kayak are great for searching multiple airlines at once to see which is offering the cheapest tickets (us college students with wanderlust got to help each other out). 

Whenever it’s possible, it’s best not to book flights on popular travel days. Traveling on the days surrounding holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas will mean extremely packed airports and long lines that you probably won’t want to deal with, so if it’s possible to avoid this then definitely do so. Along with this, it’s typically better to book early morning or late night flights as the airports will be a lot less crowded, which will mean less stress for you. 

It’s also important to remember that you are traveling during a worldwide pandemic, so make sure to take note of any COVID restrictions before booking, and many times after booking because these restrictions are bound to change. Do your research and triple-check what the restrictions are in every destination you may be traveling to. I made the mistake of not realizing that I needed two separate COVID tests before traveling to Spain this summer because of my layover in Portugal, which led to an extremely stressful airport experience, lots of crying, and almost missing my flight. Always plan further in advance than you think you need to and keep track of those restrictions, it will pay off in the long run. 

Photo courtesy of Anete Lusina on Unsplash

Packing. 

I seriously have always struggled with packing. Every time I’m preparing to leave for a trip, I think of every possible situation that could happen to me while I’m gone, and for some reason feel like I’m going to change clothes four times a day. So, I know it’s easier said than done, but pack lighter than you think you need to (I promise you won’t need six pairs of shoes for your week-long Christmas trip to Florida with your family). Even better, if you’re able to fit everything you need into a carry-on, you’ll be able to skip those long check-in lines or baggage pickup at the airport. To help with packing, before you start just piling things into your bag, I’d suggest laying your clothes out on the floor or the bed to see how much you’re planning to pack and what you can take out before it’s all stuffed away. I also like to count out how many days and nights I’ll be gone so I can plan how much to bring based on that versus randomly throwing things in. And this may be obvious but it is still a frequently forgotten thing to do, check the weather of where you’re flying to. Why pack that pair of boots if it’s going to be 70º and sunny the whole week you’re there? 

Another tip is to wear the items that will take up the most space in your suitcase on your flight instead of packing them away. This is especially useful if you need to bring warmer clothes like jackets or boots to your destination that take up a ton of room in luggage. It’s much better to layer up at the airport than to not have enough space in your suitcase or have to pay a fee for an overweight bag (trust me, I’ve had to do that before and it was not fun). And if traveling with gifts, it may be best to leave them behind or purchase smaller presents like gift cards that easily fit in your carry-on or checked bag. You can also ship gifts to your destination beforehand to alleviate this problem altogether. 

Photo by Jason Toevs from Pexels

Get to the airport early. 

Seriously, missing your flight is avoidable by just planning to give yourself extra time at the airport. Sometimes, it can feel unnecessary to be at the airport two hours earlier than your flight, but during the holidays this can mean the difference between being settled and on your way to your vacation, or stuck in an airport on standby after missing a flight. It’s much better to give yourself more time than you think you need just in case you get held up at security for a lot longer than you normally would. Just save yourself the stress and frustration and get there early; the worst that’ll happen is you may have to sit at a restaurant for an hour to kill time before your flight (but hey, at least you’ll still make it). 

Holiday travel should be anything but stressful and should be an exciting experience. So, to try and prevent stress this holiday season and beyond, try out some of these tips. The most important advice to remember is to not let any travel stress or unexpected setbacks ruin your holiday plans. It can be easy to feel frustrated watching the clock tick down to your takeoff time while trying to get through a mile-long security line, but try to remain positive and remember that the travel experience you have in the airport won’t define your whole trip. Once you’re relaxing at your destination, be it a snowy ski resort in Lake Tahoe or the sandy beaches of Cancún, the experience you had at the airport won’t feel so important and you’ll be happy you made the trip.

Isabel Lopez

CU Boulder '22

Isabel is a junior studying Strategic Communication at CU Boulder with minors in Spanish and Dance. She loves spending time outside, yoga, eating yummy food, traveling, and spending time with the people (and dog) she loves.