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Finding Joy in Holiday Travel

Grace Lower | Mar 16, 2022

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As the leaves begin to change and the nights get a little cooler, you might find yourself thinking about the upcoming holiday season. And if you’re planning on traveling this winter, the most wonderful time of the year could come with a heavy dose of stress.

Holiday vacations can be tough, whether you’re taking a road trip or flying halfway around the world. The weather is often nasty, the traffic can be unbearable, and family squabbles are only amplified by long days on the road. Despite these obstacles, it’s still possible to kick back and enjoy the journey. Here are seven simple tricks to keep your holiday travels merry and bright.


Plan Ahead

No matter what your holiday plans entail, it’s never too early to begin shopping around. Check out websites like Kayak and Travelocity to compare prices for flights and accommodations. Ask your social networks--or strangers on Trip Advisor--for advice on must-see attractions. And most importantly, begin chatting with your family members about their ideas and expectations for the perfect holiday.

While vacation schedules shouldn’t be airtight, it helps to approach your holiday travels with a general plan for each day. Try to balance down-time with new experiences to keep cabin fever at bay. No matter the destination, you can find local festivities with a quick Google search or through websites like Eventful.


Keep Your Expectations in Check

Believe it or not, there’s no such thing as a perfect holiday season. Gifts can fall short, recipes can flop, and if you throw travel into the mix, something will inevitably go wrong.

That said, there’s no reason to feel like a Scrooge this season. Instead of striving for a seamless winter vacation, try to approach your holiday travels with a broad set of goals. These can be simple, like “I’d like to spend more time with my family,” or more challenging, like “I’d like to try something that’s outside of my comfort zone.” By focusing your energy on a few key objectives, you’ll be less inclined to stress out over minor setbacks.


Let Go of Guilt

The holidays have a knack for stirring up guilt. Maybe you’ve chosen to forgo your family Christmas party for a trip abroad, or perhaps you’ve decided to visit friends rather than staying home for the holidays. These decisions can be tough, especially when they break a time-honored holiday tradition.

While it’s easy to feel guilty about saying “no” to certain events, take time to recognize the value of holiday travel. This new experience could bring exciting learning opportunities and unforgettable moments for you and your family. Don’t dwell on what you could have done; instead, celebrate the joy of what you’re doing.


Count on Others

Whether you’re traveling solo or with your family this holiday season, don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it! This could mean enlisting your kids to help with meal prep, asking a stranger for directions to the metro, or calling your mom for gift advice. No matter the situation, relying on others can save your sanity during an already-hectic time of year.


Bring Plenty of Snacks. (No, seriously.)

Everyone has their shortcomings, and mine is “hanger.” When I get hungry, my temper runs short, my patience wears thin, and my outlook turns negative. My family will be the first to tell you that this trait only gets worse when I travel. It’s gotten to a point where I constantly carry snacks (for my sake, and for the sake of those around me).

Even if you’re not prone to getting hangry like me, it’s always a good idea to bring food when you travel. When your flight gets delayed, a granola bar from your backpack can bring an instant mood-boost. If your kids start to squabble, hard candy can provide a needed distraction. And, at the risk of sounding like a commercial, a Snickers bar really can help you feel more like yourself after a long day of holiday travel.



The holidays are a time for indulgence, and if you happen to be traveling, it’s awfully convenient to skip the gym. What’s more, we tend to overeat when we travel--whether we’re sitting down to dinner at a nice restaurant or tucking into seconds at Grandma’s house.

Although there’s certainly nothing wrong with treating yourself, exercise is an important way to keep the holidays balanced and guilt-free. Try taking an after-dinner walk with your family, practicing some yoga before bed, or checking out a few hotel-friendly workout moves. An occasional boost of endorphins will keep you in good spirits throughout the holiday season.


Take Care of Your Spirit, Too

If you’ve ever seen A Charlie Brown Christmas, you’ll know that one of the main shortcomings of the holidays is the commercialism that surrounds them. With the rise of Instagram, Pinterest, and Amazon Prime, there’s constant pressure to splurge on gifts and experiences alike.

To avoid holiday burn-out while you travel, take some time to acknowledge on the spiritual significance of the season. If you’re religious, attend a service or mass with your loved ones (even if you have to live-stream it from your hotel room). And if you don’t practice a religion, consider participating in a community service project or meditating on the events of past year. Whatever it is that nurtures your spirit, build it into your travels. This simple act can help center your holidays on something more substantial than the latest gifts and gadgets.


When you’re on the road this holiday season, put your expectations aside and enjoy yourself. After all, winter travel is best spent with a grateful heart, a flexible attitude, and the people you love. No matter where this holiday season takes you, you can do your part to bring joy to the world.

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