by Maria Luci, editor at Maria's Farm Country Kitchen and Rodale's
If holiday travel has you feeling frazzled before you even start packing, you're not alone. Whether it's hauling bags through mile-long airport security lines, waiting out extended flight delays, or being stuck in stop-and-go traffic, there's a lot to get your blood pressure boiling while you make the trek to reunite with friends and family for the holidays.
This year, if you're joining the millions of other Americans hitting the road (or skies) during November and December, make your journey--not just your destination--as comforting and relaxing as a slice of warm apple pie with these simple steps for a peaceful holiday travel experience:
1. Plan, plan, plan. The more time you give yourself to plan your trip, the better.
Does your travel involve hotels? Three months in advance, start researching and booking them. If you're bringing along a pet, be sure to check if the hotel is pet friendly. If you're not bringing your furry friend, start researching kennels or pet sitters. Book those early, too.
If flying or taking a train, two months in advance is often a good window for purchasing tickets. It's important to book holiday flights early--they fill up fast. Whenever possible, plan your travel for less-busy days. For example, avoid driving or flying on the Sunday after Thanksgiving (November 29 this year), which is traditionally one of the busiest travel days of the year!
Once your plans are set, create an itinerary. If you're driving, add a printed map, even if you're using a GPS, just in case. Print your itinerary and email a copy to yourself and those you'll be visiting.
2. Make a list and check it twice. Make a detailed list of everything you'll need to bring. Going somewhere cold? Remember coats and gloves! Somewhere tropical? Better find that bathing suit made from ecofriendly material. Be sure you have everything you need, and if you don't, get it ahead of time so you're not frantically searching for travel-size toothpaste the morning of your flight.
Don't forget medications, IDs, passports, tickets, itineraries, maps, cash, insurance info, and credit cards. Place important items in your carry-on/tote.
3. Meditate. Meditation is a proven technique for reducing stress and anxiety. According to the Mayo Clinic, "Spending even a few minutes in meditation can restore your calm and inner peace."
Luckily, meditating is easy. It can be done anywhere--in the passenger seat, on the plane, waiting in the terminal. Not sure how to start? Check out this Beginner's Guide to Meditation from Rodale Wellness.
4. Take exercise breaks. Like meditating, exercise is a simple way to melt away your stress. If you're flying, get in some exercise before you leave for the airport. If you're driving, throw a pair of tennis shoes or a yoga mat into the car. That way, at pit stops with safe, grassy areas, you can lace up your shoes or roll out your mat to get in some walking, running, or yoga. Trust us, it'll help get your endorphins pumping, which does your body and your mind some good.
5. Eat clean. Sure, a cheeseburger is quick and easy to grab while you're on the road, but it's not going to leave you feeling very good. Pack healthy snacks for car and train trips in BPA-free storage containers. For ideas of what to bring, check out this list of 13 Foods That Fight Stress from Prevention. And boost your immunity naturally with superfoods and supplements like Vitamin C Powder. Because nothing adds stress to travel like a cold will!
6. Get comfy. Put down the skinny jeans and grab the softest clothes in your closet. Anything activewear is usually a safe bet for travel. Think stretchy leggings, cozy cardigans, and comfy sweatshirts, and of course pockets.
But stress-free comfort doesn't end at comfy clothing. To really bring on the tranquility, listen to a calming playlist, wrap yourself in your favorite blanket or oversized scarf, and mist yourself with an essential oil spray. You'll feel more relaxed in no time.
7. Mail your gifts ahead of time. Especially if you're flying or riding the train. Not having to lug extra packages/suitcases/bags around will lighten both your physical and your mental load.
8. Be grateful and have fun! Enjoy yourself. Be thankful for the journey, for your friends and family, and for the views along the way. Remind yourself that holiday travel brings us to places where we'll share delicious comfort food with people we love. Take a moment to reflect on all you have to grateful for and sit back and enjoy the ride...
Maria Luci is the manager and editor at Maria's Farm Country Kitchen and content creator and editor at Rodale's. She grew up in Virginia, but now lives in Philly with her husband, a black cat, and a giant Aloe plant named Big Al. When not writing and editing, she's usually cooking up organic recipes or running--or eating when she should be running.
For more from Maria Rodale, visit www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com