The next few weeks of travel will be hectic -- there is no denying that. Flight delays, overbookings, lost luggage, and never-ending lines of people from the ticket counter to the only coffee shop inside security. All of this can combine to create a stressful travel experience. But how you deal with that chaos is entirely within your control.
Holiday travel doesn't have to be stressful. You don't merely have to survive it -- you can actually enjoy it! Here are five tips to keep in mind while the lines get longer and the people near you sigh and shift around in irritation.
1. Your stress will not change travel delays. Breathe!
It absolutely does not matter how much you complain or how frequently you check your watch, those delays will continue for as long as they need to continue. Your stress will not resolve the problem. Your anger will accomplish nothing except for an increase in your blood pressure. If a delay happens, enjoy the extra time you have to relax before the large family parties begin. Or better yet, be bold and chat with the stranger sitting next to you. Create something positive out of the situation rather than compounding the stress others feel. You'll feel better, and perhaps you can make your neighbor feel more festive as well.
2. Carry candy canes with you and pass them out along your way.
It sounds so simple, but handing a stranger a candy cane will brighten their day and yours. Most people look at holiday travel as a necessary evil. Why not surprise someone and remind them that holidays are meant to be celebrations? You will feel happier seeing others smile and the general mood lightens with such positive actions rather than more scowling faces.
3. Tell everyone you see "Happy Holidays!"
You will remind yourself to be festive, and offer a quick reminder to others as well. We all get so wrapped up in our tasks and agendas -- especially while traveling -- that we often forget to look around. Take that moment, look someone in the eye, and wish them well. Human connection is often lost at airports as we simply follow along and hand our documents over begrudgingly. Those people working there are waiting to go home to their loved ones, just like you're heading off to see yours. Take the moment to say a festive greeting and make this holiday time an enjoyable one.
4. Dress up!
Don't go to the airport in your frumpiest travel clothes, designed purely for comfort while neglecting all social norms of looking and smelling presentable. Whether dressing up means a full santa suit or an ugly sweater, I guarantee if you wear something festive you will feel more festive. And just think of the conversation starter! Strangers will appreciate your effort to brighten a day of travel. Airport staff will probably appreciate the effort, though it may take you longer to get through security if you really go all out. The more you have fun -- even if you fake it -- the more everyone around you will laugh. Laughter is contagious and airports could use a lot more of it. Spread the cheer.
You would smile if you saw Santa on your flight. And if it's for a good cause, you should smile on the inside, too.
5. Leave small gifts for people.
It doesn't take much, but a small gift for the bartender, or the flight attendant, or the kid sitting behind you (bribery to not kick your chair the entire flight? Maybe.) will go a long way. Humans enjoy giving. Science has proven that our own mood improves as we give to others. Go ahead and make yourself happier while making others happy at the same time. Small stockings, candles, decorations, bags of gold coins -- whatever you can offer will make that person smile and will make your day of travel less stressful.
Holiday travel is not to be feared. It is not a dreaded task before you that will ruin your day. It is simply a journey to wherever you're headed. If you don't enjoy the journey, you're wasting precious moments. The holidays are a perfect time to reflect and remember what's truly important in life, so don't wait until you get where you're going to start feeling gratitude and joy. Start now, as you walk out the door. Enjoy the journey and you will add so many more happy moments to your day. Happy holidays!
Amanda Walkins is a freelance writer currently based in Roatan, Honduras. She blogs about her accidental expat life at www.awalkontherun.com.