When everyone in the nation is trying to get across the state or country to be with family and friends on the same couple of days, there are bound to be issues—even if things are mostly working out in your favor. But you needn’t subject yourself to complete misery. Here are a few tips for making the travel process less awful:
Get pre-check, and arrive early.
If you’re willing to submit some personal information and get a background check, the Transportation Security Administration’s pre-check program is a lifesaver. The process takes a while to complete, and you might have to take an extra trip to the airport for a brief in-person interview, but for your $85 fee (or $100 for the international version), you get five years of expedited security lines. These shorter airport lines don’t require you to take off your shoes and jacket, or remove your laptop and liquids from your bag. (You’ll be amazed at how easy security feels when you’re not shuffling around in your socks, trust us.) If you don’t have the time or inclination to get a background check, some airlines allow you to buy your way into their premium, faster security lines for a small fee. Regardless, during the holidays, you should budget extra time for long lines—or heavy highway traffic, for that matter. Even if you spend an extra hour or two at the airport, you won’t have to stress about missing your flight.
Combat that dry-face feeling by bringing moisturizer or a facial oil. Planes, especially, have notoriously dry air, so feeling a little flaky is all but guaranteed. You might want to bring along a little bottle of cleanser, too, so you don’t feel quite so icky during a few hours in the air or car.
Pack wet wipes.
There’s no need to wait for the flight attendant to come around with that refreshing towelette if you bring your own. Wet wipes are great for everything from wiping your hands to cleansing your face to cleaning up spills, no matter your method of travel. If you’re starting to feel a little smelly, well, they’re good for that too.
Wear comfy clothes—and take off your shoes.
You should definitely keep your shoes on while driving, but on a plane, things tend to swell, including legs and feet. Wear comfy, stretchy clothes and shoes, and let your feet out of their cages for a while. We recommend putting them back on to go to the bathroom, though, and make sure you aren’t unleashing an unbearable stench on those around you.
Walk around as much as you can.
Some of the swelling in your extremities during flights is due to lack of activity. You can’t control the fasten seatbelt sign, but get up as often as you can. If you’re in the car, take pit stops and do a few stretches to prevent yourself from feeling like your limbs are limp noodles.
It’s tempting to treat yourself to a burger and fries at the airport or off the highway, but stay away from too much junk food. During long trips, you’ll only make yourself feel greasy and terrible. No matter how tempting that gas station candy may be, your body will thank you for choosing carrot sticks or a salad instead. (Although if you were to buy that in-flight cheese plate, we wouldn’t judge.)
Drink a lot of water.
Whether you’re flying, driving, or taking the train, it’s easy to get dehydrated after a few hours of sitting on your butt. Splurge on the biggest water bottle you can carry, and drink up. Even if you have to hit the rest stops or plane bathroom a few more times, it’ll be worth it when you arrive feeling hydrated and energized.
Don’t forget the sleep aids.
Bring a sleep mask, ear plugs, and a pillow. Even if you’re flying in the middle of the day, it can be nice to tune out the world for a while. Plus, it’s nice to have a pillow in case you get a little sore from sitting on a hard seat for hours at a time.
Invest in noise-cancelling headphones.
They’re more expensive than your average ear buds, but the ability to tune out the screaming baby in front of you is priceless.
Ship your gifts ahead of time.
Buying presents online? Send them to your final destination, and tell the family member hosting you not to open the box! If you’ve got small items, you can stick them all in a flat-rate shipping box, ready to be wrapped once you arrive. It’ll save room in your luggage.
Bring yourself a gift, too.
Even the best holiday travel experience can be somewhat miserable, so lift your spirits a little by indulging in something you wouldn’t otherwise buy. Download a movie or splurge on a mid-flight snack or airport manicure. Stop on the road at something you’ve always been meaning to see, or that restaurant that’s always looked amazing from its billboard.
Does traveling make you motion sick? Try these natural remedies to treat and prevent motion sickness.
Another way to make holiday travel less stressful? Travel insurance can help cover costs due to last-minute trip cancellation or delays, lost luggage, emergency medical and dental visits while you’re away, and more. Find out more at geico.com.
Originally published December 2016.