Home » Travel » 8 Tips for Reducing Holiday Travel Stress

8 Tips for Reducing Holiday Travel Stress

This Fairy Tale Life is reader supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn a monetary commission. Learn more.

8 Tips for Reducing Holiday Travel Stress

When my husband and I got married, we decided we would alternate Christmas visits with our families since my family is here in California and his family is on the east coast.

Last year we stayed in California, so this year we are traveling to New England. I’m not going to lie – I am not a fan of flying, and traveling around the holidays can be a big stressful nightmare for me. I’m always fine and happy when I get to my destination, but I always wish I could snap my fingers and arrive in an instant.

This year, we decided to be smart and travel on “off-peak” days, so hopefully the airport won’t be completely packed with grumpy travelers. And now that I’m self-employed, I don’t have the extra stress of getting back to my job in case there are any weather delays.

I’m excited to spend some time with my in-laws, our nieces, and try skiing for the first time!

If holiday travel stresses you out, like it does for me, I wrote up this little list of tips for reducing holiday travel stress. I hope you can find some good tips in here! #1 is a major lifesaver for me.

Tip #1: Create checklists

I tend to be a procrastinator when it comes to packing for a trip. I always have the best of intentions regarding getting myself organized early on so I’m not stress-packing at the last minute, but that’s what inevitably always ends up happening. I’m just that type of person. The thing that has saved me time and again is creating checklists. Actually, creating one master checklist and then printing it out each time I take a trip. Having a checklist helps me remember to pack both my contacts AND contact solution (you kinda need both) and also deodorant (mid-flight is a horrible time to realize you forgot yours and need it very badly). 

Click here to download my packing checklist!


Tip #2: Make extra copies of your ID, credit cards, and insurance information

And keep these extra copies in your carry-on. If your handbag or wallet gets stolen or misplaced – both of which can easily happen when among crazy crowds – you’ll at least still have all your important information. Additionally, consider storing these extra copies in a waterproof pouch for extra protection. Make sure you also copy or photograph the back of your credit card, too, so you have their phone number handy if your card gets stolen or compromised. This small yet invaluable step could save you from a lot of hassle in the event of theft or compromise. (Tip within a tip: Add this task to your checklist.)

Tip #3: Do not pack wrapped gifts

You would think everyone knows this already, right? But they don’t. And if you are “randomly chosen,” you may have to unwrap those gifts and repack everything, causing delays for everyone in line. Instead, pack the gifts, tape, and some wrapping paper pre-cut to the size of the gift (or better yet, opt for the convenience of gift bags and tissue paper – no tape or scissors needed). If you have a long wait before your flight leaves, you can spend that time wrapping gifts once you pass through security. Even better, ship all your gifts to the recipient ahead of time, or if you’re buying gifts online, have the company ship them directly to the recipient (put your name somewhere in the address so the recipient knows not to open the box). 

Tip #4: Pad your timeline

Always, always, always give yourself extra time! I aim to be everywhere 30 minutes earlier than you actually need to arrive. If you’re lucky, you’ll leave right on time. At worst, you’ll arrive to your destination super early and you don’t be panicked or stressed. Bring a book or a handheld game to keep yourself entertained. Also, keep an eye on your flight times via the airline’s app (signing up for text message alerts is a smart idea), and follow both your airline and airport via X for potential information that may affect your flight. 

Tip #5: Eat wisely

I know, that airport pizza looks good, doesn’t it? And I’m a huge fan of stress eating. But you know what’s worse than stressful holiday travel? Experiencing stressful holiday travel with a tummy ache. Try to avoid foods that tends to make you bloated, such as beans, apples, fried foods, or dairy. Pack some snacks, like power bars, almonds, or pretzels (obviously no liquids allowed past airport security), and avoid sugary coffee drinks and sodas that could potentially make you cranky later on. 

Tip #6: Plan ahead for delays

Obviously nobody wants to THINK about airplane delays, whether it’s a couple hours or a couple days. But, because delays are common during the holidays, there are a few easy things you can do to plan ahead. First, pack a change of clothes (including underthings) and important medications in your carry-on. If you find yourself stuck overnight in the airport you’ll be so happy to have them. Second, if it’s early enough in the season, bring your holiday cards, address book, and stamps with you. You can address and stamp your cards while waiting at the airport or while on the plane. (If it’s right before the holidays, consider sending “Happy New Year” cards instead. I have a friend who does this because she’s fully aware she can’t get her act together before Christmas. It’s kind of genius.) Finally, don’t forget some extra entertainment. Bring a book or download movies on your tablet and don’t forget an external phone/tablet battery pack.

Tip #7: Travel on “non-peak” days if possible

Which I know for most people, it’s not. But if you can avoid the airport during the weekends before and after Christmas Day, and obviously the Wednesday before and the Sunday after Thanksgiving, you’ll have a much less stressful travel experience. But these days are busy travel days for a weekend and I understand that. That’s why I put this tip towards the end. (But seriously, travel on non-peak days if possible.)

Tip #8: Be kind to service workers

Those airline, bus line, and train depot employees probably haven’t seen a smile or heard a “thank you” all day. Start your conversations with a smile and a compliment and you’ll likely get better service. Besides, studies show smiling increases our own happiness, and who couldn’t use a little extra happiness during holiday traveling? 


Safe and happy travels!

About Mindy

Mindy Marzec is a life-long Disney fan who grew up in Los Angeles. She started This Fairy Tale Life to share Disneyland travel tips for adults. When not at Disneyland, you can find Mindy at home snuggling with her cats and re-watching Thor: Ragnarok for the billionth time.