For many of us, the coming holiday season is a chance to relax and unwind in the company of friends and family, especially after a busy year. According to a survey by the American Psychological Association (APA), however, 38 percent of people said their stress level increases during the holidays. Financial worries, lack of time, and family get-togethers can all be stressors. Add the hassle of travel to this list – holidays and travel often go hand-in-hand – and pressures only mount during what should be a peaceful time of the year. PwC’s annual Holiday Outlook found that 47 percent of survey respondents said they would travel for the holidays this year, an increase from the estimated 33 percent that hit the road before the pandemic. And if the travel disruption chaos that erupted during the summer holidays as a surge of people embarked on long-distance travel for the first time in over two years is anything to go by, it’s obvious that travellers may feel an extra amount of stress this upcoming holiday season.
The holidays are stressful. Travel is stressful. The two together don’t need to spell disaster.
Preparing your mental and physical health before travel can help to alleviate systems of stress. There are several simple steps that anyone can take to help manage stress levels during a busy travel season. These include:
- Be honest with yourself. First recognize that travelling can be stressful and be honest with yourself about what to expect, especially in terms of your stress triggers. Identify your stressors and then prepare techniques that will make the situation easier for you to handle. Talk with your primary physician or mental health provider prior to your trip to come up with an individual stress management plan. If you manage your mental health with prescription medication, talk to your doctor to ensure your medication is compliant with your destination’s import regulations. This may mean carrying a doctor’s note or original prescription.
- Timing can be everything. Try and travel earlier in the day, when transportation disruptions are less likely to occur as the domino effect of timetable disruptions have yet to accumulate. Travel at off-peak times and book morning flights or trains. If possible use non-stop services.
- Plan Ahead. While some of us may thrive under pressure, preparing for your journey well ahead of time will reduce the likelihood of forgetting anything or feeling overwhelmed. Check weather reports for signs of bad weather and the airline website to make sure there are no changes to flight schedules. Pack bags earlier and make sure electronic devices are fully charged. On the day of travel, check-in online and consider paying for fast-track or priority security lanes to save you time at transport hubs.
- Manage expectations. Inclement weather, poor road conditions, flight disruptions and missing luggage are situations that are routine enough that we can accommodate for the unexpected to happen. Always give yourself more time than you need. Try to pack light or use a carry-on piece of luggage only. Ensure that the dimensions of your carry-on meet the individual airline specifications. Ensure your luggage is identifiable and tagged with your contact information like a phone number or email address. Taking a photo of your suitcase or popping an AirTag, Tile or other GPS locator device can help if your luggage goes missing.
- Decompress before you go. Take some time to yourself before your trip to unwind from regular day-to-day activities and stress. Whatever your use day-to-day to help you with stress management can also work for you while on the road, but maybe with a few adjustments. Curate a stress-relief tool kit of favourite playlists to listen to and shows to watch, some breathing exercises or even consider bringing a stress ball.
Travel disruptions are inevitable. Preparing for them, especially during a busy travel time, can help to reduce the impact they have on mental health.