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How to make holiday travel less taxing

Though holiday travel is rarely hassle-free, many travelers would no doubt admit that enduring long lines at the airport or heavily trafficked highways are prices worth paying for the chance to spend time with their families come the holiday season.

But, while there’s no way for travelers to guarantee their flights leave on time or the roads stay clear of fellow drivers, there are ways to make the holiday travel less taxing.

• Prepare to wait. Check-in lines and lines at security checkpoints tend to be especially long during the holiday season. Travelers should prepare to wait at such lines and leave their homes early enough so they can still make their flights without having to rush through airports at the last minute. If you normally leave your home two hours before your scheduled check-in, then leave an hour earlier to account for traffic en route to the airport and the long lines once you get there. If you make it through the security checkpoint with plenty of time to spare before your flight departs, you can always unwind at an airport coffee shop or restaurant, but arriving too late to the airport will only add stress to an already stressful situation.

Drivers also should prepare to wait when traveling during the holiday season. Roads will have more drivers, so travelers should build in traffic jams when estimating how long it might take for them to arrive at their destinations. Sitting in traffic might still be stressful, but it won’t be as stressful if you’re still likely to arrive to your destination on time.

• Ship your gifts. Holiday travelers often try to cram gifts into their suitcases or the trunks of their vehicles, reducing the space they have to bring personal items or stretch out in their cars on road trips. Instead of squeezing as many gifts into your suitcase or vehicle as possible, ship the gifts and travel light. Traveling light can save you from having to pay potentially costly baggage fees at the airport, while drivers will notice passengers tend to be a lot more comfortable and relaxed when they don’t have to share space with bags filled with gifts.

• Bring your own food. Hunger can only make flight delays and traffic jams that much worse. When traveling for the holidays, bring along your own food, especially when traveling with youngsters. Pack small meals for kids and some snacks for the flight or the drive. It’s not a safe assumption that there will be food on the flight or that you will have time to grab some snacks in the terminal before boarding the plane. So pack some snacks before you leave for the airport. Drivers also should anticipate traffic jams and should not assume that there will be rest stops along the way where they can pick up beverages, snacks or meals. Drivers also may want to avoid pulling over so they can get to their destinations on time. Packing food and beverages for the trip can save you the trouble of making frequent pitstops to quell hunger and thirst.

• Pack some distractions. Whether you’re waiting to board at the gate or driving on a seemingly endless highway, pack some distractions so you or your fellow travelers aren’t left with nothing to do during delays. People traveling via airplane may want to bring along a book or a tablet on which they can play games or watch television. Drivers may not be able to take their eyes off the roads, but they can pack books and tablets or video game consoles for their passengers. Children may find delays or long trips especially uncomfortable, so adults should make sure kids have things to keep them occupied during such excursions.

Holiday travel can be unpredictable and tedious, but travelers can take steps to make the process of getting from point A to point B a lot less taxing.

This story was posted on December 19, 2013.