This blog post was updated on August 5, 2021.

With flight delays, crowds, over-spending, and bad weather, it can be hard to see the good in holiday travel. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s usher in a season of bah humbug travelers. As one of the most heavily traveled times of the year, most of us trudge through it and lose our minds in the process. In hopes of spreading a bit more holiday cheer this year, we have rounded up a few ways you enjoy some (mostly) stress-free holiday travel.

If You Haven’t Booked Your Travel Yet, Do it NOW

woman who's booking stress-free travel

Most of us bemoan holiday travel due to the added costs involved. You’ll save yourself the inevitable pocketbook shock if you book your holiday travels now. See if you can find cheap round trip flights for off-peak travel days, so you can fly before those winter weather delays snowball into last-minute cancelations. In doing so, you may find more even more discounts. If not, at least you have a wider variety of flights and rooms to choose from. Each day you wait will mean more money and a worse seat on that already full flight, and believe us, there’s nothing worse than being uncomfortable on a flight. 

Going by Car? Get a Tune-Up ASAP!

Getting car fixed so you can have stress-free holiday travel

Some skip the chaos of the airport to travel by car instead during the holidays. Rather than having that ill-timed breakdown on the way to Grandma’s house, take your car in for a tune-up now. You should have a mechanic check your tires, breaks, oil, and anything else that might be a concern when driving a considerable distance in wintry conditions.

Send Gifts Ahead of Time

Packing gifts creates one giant headache during holiday travel. If you wrap them, security might make you unwrap that gift for Aunt Susan to see what’s inside. In addition to being rifled through at airport security, gifts also take up precious space in your luggage. When you’re packing mostly bulky clothes, there isn’t always room for gifts. Save yourself the stress of having to wrap and pack your gifts by sending them ahead of time. You’ll eliminate the weight in your luggage and the worry of getting everything there in one piece.

Start Eating Well, Exercise, and Get a Flu Shot

Man getting a flu shot for stress-free holiday travel

Arriving sick at Uncle Bob’s house or catching a cold in the airport during holiday travel is enough to ruin Thanksgiving dinner. There are several things you can do to minimize your chances of getting sick around the holidays by picking up something in the airport or a rest stop. Start by eating well leading up to your travels. Exercise regularly and, if you wish, get a flu shot to cut back your flu risk. On your travel days, wash your hands often with soap and water and resist touching your eyes, mouth, nose, and ears.

Related: How to Speed Up Your Holiday Travel

Purchase a Day Pass to an Airline Lounge for Travel Days

Woman at an airport lounge enjoying stress-free holiday travel

Most airlines have lounges in which you can purchase a day pass. Airports around the holidays often equal annoying crowds. While airline lounges can also crowd up, you’ll at least find more comfortable seating, more convenient charging locations, and free food and drink. Treat yourself to make the extra time you have to spend at the airport more bearable and relaxing.

Fly Early in the Morning

Woman waiting for early morning flight to have stress-free holiday travel

There are three reasons to take an early morning flight. First, you avoid the crowds at the gates and security line. One of the most stressful travel moments is when you’re stuck in a long line as your boarding time arrives. It puts you in a true panic.

The second reason is the discounts. A flight that leaves at five or six in the morning costs a lot less at eight or nine. Also, it might be a direct flight instead of a connection. The third reason is a less crowded plane. Though it might cost less, people decide to pay more to get some extra sleep. This means a flight where you might not have to share a row with others.

Use Online Check-In

Traveler using online check-in for more stress-free holiday travel

Even if you take an early morning flight, the check-in line can be huge since there aren’t enough customer service agents to handle everyone sometimes. So, you end up waiting when you thought it would be easy to get through.

The solution here is using online check-in. You enter your name on the airline’s website, notify them if you have any luggage to check-in, and submit. You receive an email or text with the bar or QR code needed to get on the plane. Then, the only thing you need to do at the airport is to place your baggage on the belt and head toward security.

Don’t Sit At Your Assigned Gate

This suggestion has a caveat. If you have a book, movie, or games to occupy your time, then you should be okay sitting at your gate, even when you arrive early. On the other hand, if you’re going to spend 90 minutes doing nothing, then it’s best to do it while walking around.

Most of the large airports across the globe feature eating and shopping establishments in the main terminal and the gates. Some have an equivalent to a shopping mall with a food court, brand-name restaurants, and high-end stores. Even if you aren’t planning on spending too much, it doesn’t hurt to look around or treat yourself to a cup of coffee. 

Find Ways To Relax

Passenger relaxing at an airport spa for stress-free holiday travel

Since travelers are often stressed, airports are increasing opportunities for rest and relaxation. For example, some airports have gyms in the main terminal or at the gates. While not as grand as regular gyms, they’ll still have machines that allow you to sweat off the stress. Another relaxation method provided is in-airport spas. Here, you can receive a quick massage or other calming treatment.

Overall, the best way to avoid stress while traveling for the holidays is to take it one step at a time. Break it down into small pieces. Once the flight and rooms are booked, you can make your packing list. Then, have everything ready the night before for a smooth and easy departure. Also, keep all the necessary paperwork out when you go through security.

What are other ways you could relax during holiday travel? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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About The Author

Suzy Guese is a travel writer from Denver, Colorado. She caught the travel bug after taking her very first flight at just three months old—she was headed for Disney World—and has been a total travel junkie ever since. From family car trips across North America to stints abroad in Europe, Suzy travels the globe with her redheaded temperament in search of sarcasm, stories, and travel tips to share with anyone willing to listen. She blogs about her travels at