On the road again: Find your happy place while traveling

Josh and Selena Young of Red Lion say they lucked out with holiday travel because they have small families who live in the area. (Photo by Jason Plotkin)

Of all the times you spend with friends and family, the holidays are the ones you most want to be happy and stress-free.

But as we get older and have more people than just ourselves to think about, the season can quickly become overwhelming.

When you need to attend more than one Thanksgiving dinner and make sure your children see multiple sets of grandparents Christmas morning, you might be ready to run for the hills instead of deck the halls.

As with all things, finding balance is key.

Here are five tips on how to stay sane through the holiday travel season:

Book travel plans early.

Nothing adds stress like your preferred flight being booked or seeing a major price increase because you waited.

Sherri Snyder, vice president of operations at Bailey Travel in York, recommends scheduling flights as early as possible.

“You can book tickets 11 months in advance,” she said.

If you think there’s a chance you might have to change your flight but still want to lock in the early rate, contact the airline or car rental service and ask if they charge a fee for changing. Even if they do, knowing what that fee is will allow you to save for it, rather than get hit at the last minute with a charge you can’t avoid paying.


Know who you’re going to see and when.

Make a list of who you want to visit and check their availability.

Know when your presence is required. Arrange visits with friends around family gatherings so you don’t upset your parents or in-laws.

Be vocal with all involved about your plans.

“It is about expectation, and people communicating clearly with one another, especially if you’re traveling as a couple,” said Stacy Robinson, a counselor at Dr. Elaine Lovelace and Associations in York.

She advises that once you’ve worked out travel plans to visit your side of the family, you should be clear with your partner about what will happen upon arrival. Vice versa, if your partner is making plans, be sure to ask -questions so you know what’s expected of you both.

When couples are on the same page, they can more easily face outside stresses.

Stay flexible.

Traveling means you’re at the mercy of others. Traveling in November and December means you’re also at the mercy of the weather.

Snyder said to allow extra time for travel to the airport and going through security around the holidays. She suggests adding 30 minutes onto the check-in time recommended by the airport.

In the end, you might have to make some adjustments on the fly.

Accepting this in advance — and stocking your carry-on with essentials like snacks and books — will mean that if there is a shake-up, you’ll be less likely to have a meltdown at the gate.

Be realistic about presents.

Travel is expensive. Mention ahead of time that you’re only giving presents to the little ones, or suggest a Secret Santa gift exchange to curb costs. If you need to have presents for everyone on your
list, consider making them.

“Since you have to pay for checked luggage these days and overhead storage is limited, stick to small things,” said Snyder.

Remember: Any presents that do accompany you on the plane cannot be wrapped and must still adhere to TSA rules. Shipping in advance might be a better option.

Remember that you can’t please everyone.

You didn’t pack your bags to go on a guilt trip. While you should certainly pitch in with preparations and clean-up, if what’s expected of you is stressing you out or costing you too much money, speak up.

“Always think about reaching out to everyone in your circle with love,” Robinson said. “It’s not important what you wear, what time you arrive or how long you spend at a party. What’s important is
reconnecting to that love place.”

Smart tip

Sherri Snyder, vice president of operations at Bailey Travel in York, said to book flights early in the day to avoid delays and mid-week to beat the rush. “Try to avoid weekends and peak times when traveling,” she said. “The Sunday after Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel days of the year.”

Stacia M. Fleegal

York Daily Record multiplatform journalist. Degrees in creative writing from Lycoming College and Spalding University, and a coupla books with my name on them. Central PA native who came home after floating around for a while, but always grounded by words and the places and people I remember.

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  1. November 6, 2013

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