The holiday season is peak travel season. The U.S. is an enormous country, and if your relatives live several states away, you’ll probably need to take a plane to see them. Unexpected delays, unpredictable weather and holiday crowds can all affect our travel plans and, ultimately, our mental health. Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you are hitting the airports this fall or winter:
Apps: There are a variety of smartphone apps available to help us deal with flight delays, crowds, unexpected weather and hotel reservations. Flightstats reports weather and delays at airports across the globe, while AirportZoom for the iPad adds maps of airport terminals. Hoteltonight helps stranded travelers find a nice place to stay on short notice.
Avoid peak travel days: By avoiding the peak travel days (usually the Sunday before work starts again, or the few days before a holiday), you can not only spend less on airfare, but also avoid the stress of navigating crowded airports. This certainly helps take some of the anxiety out of the traveling experience. Similarly, arriving at the airport early or at off-peak hours can help avoid potential delays and crowds.
Factor in Mental Health: Lack of sleep, tiredness, poor nutrition and the stress of travel can affect mental health, or trigger depression and anxiety. Remember to take it one step at a time, pack healthy snacks and make sure to get enough sleep before traveling. If you will be experiencing significant time changes, speak with your doctor about how to shift medication schedules.
Choose nonstop: Choosing nonstop flights wherever possible helps us avoid the worst delays of all: those where we are far from home and any people we know. Nonstop flights eliminate the potential for extra delays, crowds and lines, and helps smooth out the traveling process.
Pack lightly: It can help to pack everything in one carry-on luggage. However, the TSA only allows liquids and gels in 3.4-ounce or smaller containers, all packed into a single quart-size zip top bag. Because of this, a single carry-on might not be realistic for longer stays. No matter how many suitcases you bring, remember to pack healthy snacks, entertainment and medicine with you in your carry-on to be prepared in case of unexpected delays.
Wear comfortable clothing: Wearing layers allows you to remain comfortable in warm terminals, a hot idling plane and the freezing flight itself. Comfortable shoes that don’t restrict movement make traveling through busy airports a breeze rather than a hazard.
Contemplation exercises: If you’re at risk of getting wrapped up in all the stress of holiday travel, take a seat, take a deep breath and think about where you are headed. Visualize yourself there and the short period of hectic travel won’t seem like such a big deal anymore.