3 Travel Tips That Will Help Keep You Sane This Holiday Season

Whether you’re trotting the globe, or simply making that two-hour drive to Grandma’s house, a little bit of preparation will go a long way.

It’s the most wonderful time of year—until, that is, it’s time to pack up all of your belongings and load up the car or board a plane with your entire family and everyone’s belongings. Oh, and don’t forget to pack the presents!

For these reasons, it’s easy to see why holiday travel doesn’t exactly excite many people. This is totally understandable. Travel, in general, can make lots of folks cranky, with factors such as time zones, long lines and delays dampening even the most cheerful of moods. Add to that the pressure of getting to the in-laws’ house on time and you’ve got all of the ingredients for a misadventure.
 
Fortunately, there are ways to lessen the drama.
 
Enter Melissa Giroux, the guru behind the very fun and very thorough travel website A Broken Backpack. Giroux, a Canadian who has traveled heavily and lived abroad since 2014, knows a thing or two about traveling during...any time of the year, really. She’s experienced many travel-related issues and, just in time for the rush of family, friends and festivities, has shared her top travel tips.
 
Roll With the Punches So You Can Fly Fuss-Free
 
First and foremost, when booking a flight, flexibility is key, Giroux said.
 
In my experience, there's no such thing as the best time to book a trip or the best day to start traveling,” Giroux said in an email. She added that “If you're flexible, you will just check for the cheaper price and book that one. Unless you don't like early morning flights or late flights. These are usually the cheapest.”
 
Organizations such as the AARP echo this and explicitly warn holiday travelers from journeying on peak days. Also a good rule of thumb: Give yourself plenty of time to get from Point A to Point B.
 
“Depart from home far earlier in the day than you would at any other time of year, whether you're starting a road trip or heading to an airport or bus or railway station,” the AARP states in a blog post.
 
Keep Your Spirits Bright by Avoiding the Upcharge
 
Those who opt to travel internationally this holiday season should be aware of issues that can arise related to currency exchanges and airports, Giroux said.
 
“In my experience, getting scammed with one of these two is so common,” Giroux said. “Usually, taxi drivers charge an enormous amount at the airport, and the best way to avoid this is to use an app—such as Uber or Grab. These two come with a star review system which means your experience should be good. Also, you are likely to pay a smaller fee for your ride back to your hotel."
 
Giroux noted that fees are always higher at the airport ATMs.
 
“When possible, it is better to use an ATM right in the city instead,” Giroux said.
 
Research Is a Traveler’s Best Friend
 
Not one to enjoy being caught off-guard, Giroux does extensive research on her destination prior to going there.

“When I head somewhere with cultural differences, I read about it and look out for what to pack,” she said. “Personally, I prefer to have a smooth experience where I don't have any unwanted attention—especially when I travel solo. For example, I had heard that it's common that women get lots of unwanted attention in Morocco, so I put on conservative clothes and I didn't have any trouble there. When traveling, you must respect the culture and as a woman, I prefer to feel comfortable. Better be safe than sorry.”

As someone who has traveled to so many fascinating places, it’s hard for Giroux to pick one locale over the other.
 
“Every year I spent the holidays in a different country so it's hard to decide,” she said. “This year, I'll be in Thailand and Sri Lanka. I'm looking forward to it even though I know it won't be a snowy Christmas.”
 
Can’t stay with the relatives? When it comes to booking a hotel, Giroux is a fan of booking.com. And looking for the cheapest rate isn’t her highest priority, at least not at first.
 
“I pick a hotel which I can book with free cancellation,” she said. “If the price goes down, I get a refund and rebook at a cheaper price. Usually, prices are better last minute, but if you're heading somewhere where it's the high season, you should book in advance to avoid having to pay a lot last minute. I prefer to look at the price in advance just to get a rough idea of the costs.”
 
Those who are opting to travel by car need to make sure their vehicle is road-ready. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for example, urges drivers to prepare their vehicles for cold weather.
 
“Anyone traveling more than four hours, whether by air, car, bus, or train, can be at risk for blood clots,” the CDC stated in a recent press release. “Blood clots can form in your legs during travel because you are sitting still in a confined space for long periods of time. Protect yourself during the holiday travel season by moving your legs frequently, know the symptoms of blood clots and when to get help and if you are at risk for blood clots, talk to your doctor.”
 
Traveling during the holidays may not be everyone’s idea of a good time, but even just a little bit of planning and preparation will help ensure the trip goes as smoothly as possible.
 
So buckle up those seatbelts and make sure to pack your phone charger and headphones for the moments you’ll need to zen out. Whether you plan to go far by plane this holiday season or are simply traveling to a nearby town, we wish you safe travels.