5 ways to make holiday travel less of a nightmare

It might seem like a long time from now, but the holidays are almost upon us. This means fun and food, but also stress on all levels as we try to juggle work, friends, family, and our budgets to boot. It’s (going to be) exhausting. Like all exhausting things, it’s best to go into them prepared. So if you want to make holiday travel less of a nightmare, there are some things you should start doing right now.

For real, planning ahead to in the name of your sanity is worth it.

Because the last thing you want to do is end up in an airport, anxious, on your way to some place you don’t even want to really go to. We all have our own issues and baggage around the holidays — even the most zen-like humans get messy in November and December. So it’s safer to embrace the crazy now and start taking teeny tiny steps to ensure the holidays won’t break you this time.

Here are some ways to make holiday travel less traumatic in 2017 because seriously, everything is awful enough already without us adding to our own problems.

1Think about what you’re going to do.

Yes, in October, you should think about what your Thanksgiving and holiday plans are going to be. Waiting until the last minute can be emotionally and financially taxing, so don’t be that girl this year. If you’re part of a couple, ask your partner what they want the plans to be this year. They might feel like it’s too early to think about, which is fine. But start the conversation and let them know what you’re thinking. At the very least, you will get your ideas, feelings, and plans out on the table so you have some receipts later if they’re totally shocked when you remind them that you decided to take a solo trip to Hawaii over Thanksgiving. Be the travel planner you wish to see in the world.

2Inform everyone of your plans.

Once you come up with where you’re spending the holidays, it might be time to let some people down. Hey, everyone loves you — you can’t please them all! For example, if you’ve been secretly working with your therapist about how much you really cannot deal with another holiday season at your parents’ house, you should start breaking the news to grandma (or whoever) now. If you really want to be the one to take on Friendsgiving this year, drop that into conversation over brunch sooner rather than later. People get weird and all ownership-y of holidays, so you have to draw your boundaries early.

3Book early.

We know. Duh, right? Everyone knows they should buy their tickets and book their hotel rooms as early as possible, but we often end up not solidifying plans early enough to do it. Well, since you’ve already figured out what you’re doing, hop on those travel websites an get going. Even if you don’t pull the trigger just yet on a ticket, knowing what your options are will help you later on. Also, you might get that super great flight and seat preference while everyone is still wringing their hands trying to decide even what their plans are.

4Plan your budget.

For far too many of us, the holiday season is the only vacation we take all year. This is annoying since it often doesn’t feel like a vacation if you’re strapped for cash. Between navigating friends and family and possibly spending loads of money on presents and party dresses, the worst possible thing is having your travel expenses be the reason you subsist on turkey leftovers and ramen for weeks after the event. So if you do nothing else, start budgeting for your time off and travel expenses now!

If you work hourly or freelance, the days off around the holidays, compounded with travel spending, can really get you. On top of your regular savings plan, add a little extra into the pot each week so you can book that non-stop flight instead of the one that takes you to Iceland before landing in Cleveland. Even if you don’t start saving or buy right away, having a ballpark idea of how much you’re going to need can make the eventual blow a little softer.

5Treat yourself.

Money doesn’t buy happiness…except for when it comes to traveling. If you can swing it, try not to be stingy with yourself around the holidays! If you plan wisely and save some dough, you should totally get the more expensive ticket that cuts your travel time down a few hours or lets you get enough rest in between events. Or splurge on the in-airport massage and snacks — whatever a treat means to you, do it. It’s hard enough to make time for self care during the holiday season, but if you plan ahead, you might remember to be nicer to yourself than doing “whatever works” at the last minute.

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