The holidays are fast approaching and you may be planning a trip this season. With unexpected flight delays, COVID-19 infections stalking you and other disruptions to your itinerary, traveling during one of the busiest times of the year can be stressful.
Understand that it’s completely normal to feel anxious and overwhelmed on your journey, especially with so much beyond your control, said Nina Vasan, chief medical officer at the mental health platform. Real.
Whether you’re heading home for the holidays or vacationing somewhere new, here are some expert-approved tips to make vacation travel less stressful this year.
If you’re worried about sudden changes in your travel itinerary, it might be worth planning ahead.
Vasan recommends thinking about potential situations such as flight cancellations, weather changes and lost luggage. You can then incorporate steps such as knowing alternative flight options or taking only hand luggageif you have the opportunity to do so.
“Having a ‘crisis plan’ in place can lessen your feelings of anxiety because you already know what to do if something disrupts your itinerary,” she said.
Balance your route
Trying to fit everything into your trip, from visiting multiple family members to visiting new places, can be a lot.
“Don’t feel like you have to make an entire travel itinerary or think you have to be productive all the time. Focus on spending quality time with others and make sure you’re spending time for yourself to take care of your mental health,” said Katie Duke, nurse practitioner and member of FIGS‘ health care advisory board.
If you’re traveling for an organized event like a vacation, give yourself some space before or after to take a relaxing break. Duke recommends doing something that brings you joy, like taking a walk outside or having your favorite drink at a local coffee shop.
Mindfulness, the ability to be present in the moment, has been associated with decreased anxiety. There are many ways to practice mindfulness, such as focusing on your breath, journaling how you feel, or engaging in guided meditation.
“The physical action of taking a few deep breaths can be very helpful in releasing stress and promoting a state of calm,” Vasan said.
During your trip, you might find yourself waiting longer than expected due to delays. Although it can be stressful, view it as an opportunity to do something fun and entertaining to improve your mood, Vasan said.
Be creative and engage in an activity you enjoy, such as finding a new book to read, starting a new TV series, drawing, or even listening to a podcast episode.
It’s easy to forget to drink water throughout the day, especially in the colder months. Be sure to drink enough water during the holiday season, said Supriya Lala New York-based dietitian.
“Staying hydrated will not only help our bodily functions, but will also help improve our mood and energy levels,” Lal says.
Whether you’re on the road or on the train, the journey to and from your destination can keep you from getting enough sleep. Prioritize sleep while travelling, aiming to get at least the recommended seven hours of rest each night.
“Getting enough rest is key to being able to regulate your stress and channel healthy coping mechanisms,” Vasan said.
Give yourself a positive self-talk
The unforeseen changes you may encounter during your journey may seem overwhelming, but remember that it is beyond your control. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
“Tell yourself that your emotions right now are completely valid. Engaging in positive self-talk can improve your mood and reduce stress,” Duke said.