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I'm a freelance writer and social media consultant teaching English in Madrid. Follow my adventures around Europe!

Holiday travel survival guide

Holiday travel survival guide

The holidays are the most wonderful time of year—except when it comes to traveling.

Most look forward to some much-needed time off and some much-forced quality time with our loved ones. Whether you plan to sunbathe on a faraway beach or relax on mom and dad’s couch, getting there is hardly easy.

If you plan on flying, you’re up against weather delays, long lines, and stressed out fliers. If you’re roadtripping, hopefully you’ll be stuck in a confined space with a good soundtrack and people you like. If you’re traveling by train, well, consider yourself lucky.

Regardless of how you get there, the journey is often full of mishaps. But hey, they it’s about the journey and not the destination, right?

Here's how to make holiday travel less stressful.

If you're flying

Getty Images
Getty Images

Get to the airport early

For an international flight, that's a least two hours in advance. If you booked a flight before the crack of dawn to save money, set five alarms and resist going out the night before; there's nothing like waking up in a panic knowing that your flight already took off and you're still in bed (not that I would know).

Avoid checking a bag

Pack only the essentials (list below). You might think you’re going to get some extra work done on that laptop, but are you really? Plus, you don’t want to end up like this guy, with a $1,171 Wi-Fi bill. Stick to podcasts, e-readers, and in-flight entertainment.

Flight essentials:

  • Headphones/earbuds (preferably noise-cancelling)
  • A book or magazine (bonus points for an space-saving e-reader)
  • Fun apps/podcasts (load up on apps like these that don’t require Wi-Fi)
  • Lotion/moisturizer (for that dry cabin air)
  • Socks (to combat nonsensical temperature changes)

Make your luggage stand out

Tie a colorful ribbon on your suitcase handle or use a luggage strap. If you must check a bag, it will save time at baggage claim. Snap a picture of your bag before you leave. If your bag gets lost, you won't be stuck telling staff, “Um, it’s a black one…”

Rest up

Get some sleep. I know, easier said than done, but even a power nap will make you feel refreshed when you land. Whip out a sleep mask, noise-canceling headphones, pop some melatonin, whatever your magical formula is. Pretty soon you’ll be dreaming about the fact that you’re not sitting next to a total stranger.

If you're driving

Make a playlist

Every great road trip needs a soundtrack. Queue up that perfect playlist for daytime or night driving. My friends and I have a rule that driver gets to be the DJ (safely, of course). 

Pack food for the road

The next thing a great road trip needs: snacks. Save money and calories by packing a small cooler with your own food. After one too many gas station pitstops, you’ll wish you had some real food lying around instead of corn nuts and snack cakes.

Use an app

Beyond the obvious maps apps, you can use specific apps to find the cheapest gas, food stops at a particular exit, and nearby hotel availability. Check out Mashable’s list of free road trip apps for more.

Finally, if you have a bit of extra time to get where you’re going, map your route on Roadtrippers for suggestions on obscure stops and attractions along the way. It's a great way to spice up a routine trip with new holiday memories.

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