Many of you may already be on your way, or already arrived, at your destination for the holidays, but these tips can still help you enjoy your time and get home feeling refreshed, not frazzled. AAA has estimated that 98.6 million Americans will be taking to the sky, road, or rail between December 23rd and January 4, traveling more than 50 miles from home. That’s the most since they started keeping track in 2001 and with so many people crowding onto the highways and into airports, things are bound to get a little hairy. We’re faced with a conflicting dilemma every year with a strong desire to be with family and friends for the holidays, but then the stress that often comes along with the reality of traveling, not to mention the blending of multiple family’s habits and expectations, can quickly make the whole experience overwhelming and leaving you wishing you were home snuggled up on the couch with a mug of hot cocoa watching “Love Actually."
But, a whole lot of us choose to travel and so, I’ve narrowed down my holiday travel tips to five easy things you should keep in mind when you head out - near or far - to celebrate the holidays with your family and friends.
1. Be Prepared.
This comes to life in many ways and can be the deciding factor between an awesomely smooth travel experience and near disaster.
Snacks/Favorite Foods: When leaving home, it’s always best to take some of the foods you love and depend on with you, because you don’t want to have to depend on your hosts for them or go hungry because the only options where you’re going are going to steer you way off the path of healthy eating. Pack pre-portioned bags of homemade trail mix and fresh fruit for travel days, oatmeal for breakfasts, nutrition bars for pre/post-run fuel, and a selection of teas for relaxing. If you’re driving, fill up a cooler with bottles of water and green juice, yogurt, veggies and hummus. All great for snacking on the road and when you reach your destination.
Research: Whether you’re going someplace new or to the town where you grew up, spend 15 - 30 minutes researching local activities, possible day-trips, and restaurants around your destination. You never know when these details will come in hand!
Bag it Up: Have you ever been an hour from home when you’re hit with that miserable sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach? Your phone/watch charger is sitting on your desk? Find a cute pouch and throw all your chargers inside. Keeping them together will make them easy to find in your suitcase or carry-on so you can pull it out when you spot an available power outlet at that little mom and pop restaurant you stop at for lunch. And throw your Road ID in there for good measure if you’re planning to run while you’re on vacation!
2. Stay Healthy
Don’t let travel derail your health goals - but don’t let your goals dictate your experience, either. You’ve worked so hard throughout the year to fit in your runs and trips to the gym, maintain a healthy diet, get enough sleep, and drink enough water. There are only 10 days left until 2015, so now is not the time to throw them out the window! It is possible to enjoy family meals and lazy mornings while achieving your goals. Keep a bottle of water with you always, limit the hot toddies and glasses of prosecco at dinner and throw a baggie of clorox wipes in your carry-on to disinfect your airplane seat (any surface you’re going to touch - the airlines don’t clean them and there are people like this out there!) and the TV remote control at the hotel so you don’t come down with any bugs! There’s this great place that falls smack dab in between staying the course and not wavering from a routine, and throwing caution to the wind. Focus on finding a balance to stay healthy
3. Practice Patience
While the holidays are meant to be the happiest time of the year, in reality, things can get pretty hectic and strong opinions can clash - and that's all before you get out of the airport! If you start to feel the temperature start to rise or overwhelmed by all the people, step away, take a few deep breaths, and remember that it’s not every day that we only get a certain number of days with people during our lives, and they should be enjoyed, not spent worrying about little things. You’ll be back in your own home and to your own routine in a few days anyway!
4. Make Time for Yourself
You may be spending the holidays on the slopes in a condo filled with friends, at your sister’s house packed to the brim with multiple generations, or your in-law’s house with just a few people - whatever the case may be, be sure to carve out a little time for yourself. Heading out for a run or walk before everyone in the house is awake, finding time for a 20 minute soak in the tub, or even 10 minutes to write in your journal, these few minute on your own will let you recharge so you can keep up the energy for whatever might be ahead. I personally feel the need to be "on” all the time when I’m visiting someone else’s family, so these minutes on my own are crucial. I can relax and just be. Taking time for myself makes me a better wife, daughter-in-law and sister-in-law.
5. Be Adventurous and Have Fun
Breaking free of your regular routine and familiar surroundings provides the perfect opportunity to try new things and have some no-nonsense fun. A new workout with your sister, a break from the traditional dinner you’ve had every Christmas Eve since you can remember, spending hours digging through legos with your nephew, excursions to explore a nearby national park… whatever it is, use your holiday trip as an excuse to try something new. You never know what amazing memories you’ll make!
How do you keep the joy in holiday travel?