How to Travel During the Holidays and Not Lose Your Mind

Stress levels for Americans are sky-high—higher than that plane you may be about to board on your way to your holiday season destinations.

It’s been more than a year and a half into the COVID-19 pandemic (or, for some of us, 28 years—or at least it feels that long) and we’re knee-deep in the second holiday season living with the virus.

The latest data from the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America poll found that 1 in 3 survey respondents report feeling stressed about the coronavirus pandemic and that they have difficulty making even fundamental decisions, such as what to wear or what to eat.

Though the usual stressors come with the holidays and holiday travel, there’s a lot to consider while navigating it all through an ever-changing global pandemic.

Since Covid began (28,000 years ago) vaccination rates have increased, so holiday travel has become more manageable and feasible. But that doesn’t mean we should let our guards completely down.


Travel comfortably

a curious squirrel!

Many people have chosen to travel by car since the beginning of the pandemic.

Cars allow you to feel safe and comfortable in your own private space, to take your time getting to and from your destination, and to take as many breaks as needed or desired.

Traveling by train is another option that offers some control: you can hop on and off fairly easily, get up and stretch, and walk to other compartments.

If your destination requires you to travel by air, there are some steps you can take to ease stress and make the trip as comfortable as possible.

  • Try to sit in a part of the plane that is least populated
  • Wear your mask at all times unless eating or drinking
  • Generously use hand sanitizer


Arrive early

arriving at the airport early

This holiday season might be your first time in an airport since before the pandemic. Air travel is gonna look—and feel—different.

Whether you’re the type to arrive at the airport two hours early or two minutes before takeoff, this year give yourself a good chunk of additional time. Security checks take a lot longer with COVID regulations, and expect long lines for anywhere selling food or drink in airport or train lounges.

Having time to spare = sparing your sanity.


Have your documents ready

airport security documents ready

Depending on your destination, documentation confirming your COVID-19 vaccination status or a negative COVID-19 antigen or PCR test may be needed to enter a country or access indoor venues like museums and restaurants.

Do your research to know what documentation will be needed and have it ready before you travel.

  • Bring multiple printouts of vaccination certificates with you
  • Keep copies on your phone but don’t depend on your phone—sometimes that battery just up and drains on you and could land you in a precarious situation
  • Give everyone traveling in your group copies of relevant certs
  • Ensure everyone brings photo ID when out and about


Pack wisely

an overstuffed suitcase

Because you might need to spend extra time at the airport due to COVID-19 regulations, planning and packing everything you’ll need is essential.

Bring snacks and food for the day in Tupperware so nothing gets squashed, and keep in mind the in-flight snack service on many routes is not the same level as what it was pre-COVID.

And charge all of your electronics. Charge ’em to the brim!

Make sure your carry-on has anything you’ll need in the following 24 hours:

  • toothbrush
  • toothpaste
  • hand sanitizer
  • face mask
  • hand cream
  • lip balm
  • any medication you regularly take

Dress as you would for a winter evening relaxing on your sofa at home with these bonus bring-alongs:

  • A warm shawl or scarf
  • Noise-canceling headphones
  • Comfy shoes and cozy clothes
  • Book, magazine, tablet—anything to keep your mind off that kid behind you—you know the one; how could you miss them?—yeah, the one that’s kicking the back of your seat like their dear life depended on it


Be patient

outdoor heat lamps

If you’re vaccinated and need to decide whether to see unvaccinated loved ones, there are steps you can take to do so safely.

Consider ways to meet outside, perhaps in the backyard with a firepit or outdoor seating at a restaurant with heaters.

If even the word “vaccine” is likely to detonate an anti-family-togetherness bomb, consider spending time with loved ones who are vaccinated and connect with unvaccinated loved ones virtually.

Oh, and just try not to talk about it. Don’t talk about politics, either.

And if you’re running out of other stuff to talk about, don’t think for a moment that whipping out that dusty game of Monopoly is going to fix anything, because it won’t. Monopoly has never helped anyone, ever.



breathe deeply

If you’re feeling anxious and stressed while traveling, there are several strategies that may help calm you.

If feeling anxious, try grounding yourself through different techniques, such as:

  • Examine your immediate surroundings: the colors, shapes, their sizes
  • Create on-the-fly Top 5 lists of your favorite movies or books
  • Rub lavender oil onto your wrists or neck
  • Listen to classical or instrumental music

Practice deep breathing. There are a multitude of apps and YouTube videos can guide you through deep breathing and related guided imagery and meditation practices.

Holidays can be tough. Holiday travel can be even tougher. Hopefully these 6 tips will make your travels during this holiday season just a little bit better.

And remember: no Monopoly. Just don’t.

  • Larry Ernst
    Posted at 11:15h, 26 December

    Good tips

  • Timothy Ollen Pratt
    Posted at 14:06h, 25 December

    Thank You

  • Vilija Paulius
    Posted at 13:19h, 25 December

    Great Information!

  • Lisa Culligan
    Posted at 12:55h, 25 December

    Thank you so much again for very valuable advice

  • Kenneth Lugenbeel
    Posted at 11:59h, 24 December

    Great read

  • David Jones
    Posted at 17:41h, 23 December

    All valid points. A well presented article.

  • Sandy Dinius
    Posted at 17:40h, 23 December

    Good stuff

  • Mark Krill Jr
    Posted at 17:31h, 23 December


  • Kimberly Kopp
    Posted at 16:39h, 23 December

    Thank you

  • Margaret Hamlin
    Posted at 21:46h, 21 December

    Thank you.

  • Tyson Garza
    Posted at 18:12h, 21 December

    Good info

  • Reynsol chiles
    Posted at 17:52h, 21 December

    Nice to know

  • Shirley gregory
    Posted at 07:49h, 21 December

    Very interesting

  • Lona Franczak
    Posted at 04:16h, 21 December

    Thank You

  • Deborah Beaty
    Posted at 21:15h, 20 December

    Good info

  • Nasudeen A Somerville
    Posted at 21:03h, 20 December

    Thanks again for the great information.

  • Sam DeLeese
    Posted at 20:44h, 20 December

    If I have to wear a mask I’m not going.

  • Brenda Watkins
    Posted at 19:57h, 20 December

    Thank you

  • Charles E Silvestri
    Posted at 16:16h, 20 December


  • Evagrace Lema
    Posted at 15:20h, 20 December

    Thank you

  • Elizabeth Ball
    Posted at 15:10h, 20 December

    Thank you

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