How to Stay Sane While on the Road

“Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go…” Many of us will travel this holiday season, for a holiday meal, a few days’ stay with family or friends, or a week’s vacation to celebrate with loved ones. Staying organized with your holiday travel will ensure smooth sailing.

Before you go

Plan your trip. Where will you go? How will you get there? Where will you stay? What will you do while you’re there? Make any necessary arrangements and reservations as early as you can. Though there can be occasional “last minute” bargains based on space availability, most often, around the heavily traveled holiday times, the best deals are offered to those who book in advance.

Pack thoughtfully. Make a list. It can be tempting to just open up your suitcase the night before you leave and toss some stuff in, but don’t skip the list step for stress-free travel. Brainstorm a list a week before you go. Do all of your laundry a couple of days before you need to pack so that everything you want to take is clean and ready. Check the long-range weather forecast (weather.com) for your destination so you’ll know what the typical temperatures and conditions will be like. Think through what you’ll be doing while on your trip. Will you attend a party, engage in an activity that requires special clothing or equipment, exchange gifts? Include appropriate items on your list so that you’ll be prepared.

Don’t forget items such as your camera, batteries, chargers, swim suit, toiletries, medications, “every day” clothes, special occasion clothes, accessories, gifts, pajamas, shoes, and anything else you plan on wearing or using. If you’ll fly, visit your airline’s Web site and tsa.com to become familiar with current regulations, restrictions and charges associated with checked and carry-on baggage. Are you expecting to shop or receive a lot of gifts while on your trip? Consider packing an empty duffle bag, or smaller suitcase inside of a larger one to use on the return trip to hold extra items. Making a thorough list and then checking or crossing things off as you pack them will ease your mind that you’re remembering everything you wanted to take.

Prepare things at home for your absence. Have your mail held at the post office and your newspaper delivery suspended while you will be gone, or have a neighbor come by and pick up daily. Leave some interior lights on or set specific lamps on timers so it appears as if someone is home. Make arrangements for your pets’ care or plant watering while you’re away. Alert a trusted neighbor (and your alarm company, if you use one) of your travel plans and contact information so that they can reach you in case of an emergency. Leave a few minutes after you pack to put away things you decided not to take and tidy up a bit. It’s always nice to return to a clean home.

Travel day

Know what to expect. Map out your travel route. If you’re traveling by car make sure you have directions to your destination (mapquest.com) and if you’re traveling by plane, understand your options for ground transportation to and from the airport, both at home and at your destination.

Leave a cushion and plan for the unexpected. Most of travel stress comes from time crunches and delays. Leave plenty of extra time to allow for traffic, long lines and anything else that may come up. Even if this means you’ll have time to wait at your gate at the airport, or arrive early to your destination, you’ll have time to relax with a cup of coffee, a good book, or just people watch – all better than the alternative.

Be prepared. Bring healthy snacks, reading material and anything else you may need to make your travels, or your waiting time, more comfortable and enjoyable. If you’re traveling with children, help them pack their own activity bag, perhaps including one or two new small items, books or activities, to hold their attention.