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3 Holiday Travel Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Grace Lower | Nov 3, 2021

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This blog post was updated November 3, 2021


Whether you’re heading over the river, through the woods, or somewhere in between, it’s important to plan holiday travels with care.

As millions of Americans visit far-away places to reunite with family after a period of Zoom-only celebrations, the streets and skies will be brimming with winter vacationers. And in this case, more isn’t always merrier. In addition to increased numbers of travelers, the threats of adverse weather, cancelled bookings, or unexpected illness can bring any celebration to a grinding halt. Protect your sanity and the spirit of the season by avoiding these three holiday travel mistakes.

1. Overscheduling Your Travel Plans

There’s value in making a list and checking it twice! With gatherings to attend and people to visit, it’s important to stay on top of your to-dos. That said, jam-packed schedules can create undue stress, especially when something inevitably changes your itinerary. Remember that simplicity and flexibility are the keys to smooth holiday travels.

Ensure you’re scheduling your travels at a time that makes sense for everyone. For some families, that means traveling during non-peak times. Instead of hitting the road the day before a major holiday, try taking an additional day off for travel, or traveling on the holiday to beat the worst of the rush. You can even plan your celebration several days (or even a few weeks) after the holiday itself!

Additionally, paying for convenience can be a life-saver. For instance, booking a red-eye flight with two transfers might be the cheapest option, but if you have kids in tow, booking a direct daytime flight could be well worth the investment. Be honest with yourself about 1) how much hustle your family can handle, and 2) your budgetary limitations, and take those details into account before you book.

Once you’ve reached your destination, you’ll want to avoid the urge to overschedule activities. Work with your family to prioritize the traditions that are truly essential, making sure to build in “down-time” where everyone can rest and regroup. By focusing on just a few key activities, you’ll have time to make memories with your loved ones, rather than trying to rush everyone from one task to the next.

2. Over-packing Your Luggage

Lugging bulky suitcases and overstuffed gift bags is enough to make a Grinch out of anyone. And when you’re traveling by plane, bus, or train, checking extra bags can put a dent in your holiday travel budget. Save yourself the hassle: travel light!

To start, curate your personal suitcase ruthlessly. Focus on basic, durable staples that can be mixed and matched into entirely new looks. Jeans, solid-colored sweaters, button-downs, and scarves are great for this. If you have access to a washer and dryer at your destination, it’s even better! Don’t forget to bring plenty of warm socks — depending on your destination, the weather outside could get frightful!

Next, take some time to assess the gifts and goods that you’re planning to bring. An easy way to cut back on the hassle of packing gifts is to ship them to their recipients via online retailers. You can also mail your gifts your destination through USPS’s holiday delivery service. No matter your method, make sure to note the shipping dates to ensure that your gifts arrive in time for the big celebration.

3. Overconfidence in Your Ability to Avoid Risk

Your bags are packed, your travels are planned, and you’re patting yourself on the back for a job well-done. With all the care you put into your holiday travel plans, what could possibly go wrong? Unfortunately … still a lot. That’s why you should take every measure to protect the magic of the holiday season.

If you’re traveling for more than a few days, make sure your house is taken care of while you’re away. Hiring a house-sitter or asking a neighbor to keep an eye on things can bring major peace of mind. You can also put your mail on hold to keep things from accumulating while you’re away.

Next, you'll want to protect your trip itself. If you’re traveling by car, make sure to perform basic maintenance — think oil change, tire rotation, or general tune-up — before you hit the road. If you’re taking a train, plane, or bus, consider insuring your trip. Cancellation insurance could save you hundreds if you have to change your plans at the last minute.

While you never want to think about holiday health-scares, it’s essential to protect yourself and your family. Ensuring that you are up-to-date on all vaccines can keep you from catching something nasty while rubbing elbows with fellow travelers. Investing in travel medical insurance can be especially helpful if you’re traveling abroad for the holidays. After all, you’ll want to ensure that your health is covered, regardless of where your celebrations take you.

As you gear up for the next round of wintertime travel, just a few simple precautions can mean the difference between a holiday fright and a holiday delight. By ensuring that your travel plans are realistic, flexible, and convenient, you can spend less time in transit and more time on the people — and moments — that truly matter.


    Guest contributor: Grace Lower

About the Author

Grace Lower has a love for all things writing and travel. When she's not exploring new places, Grace enjoys teaching English as a Second Language, making terrible puns, and running incredibly long distances at incredibly slow speeds.

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