Secrets for navigating crowded skies and clogged roads during the holidays

Did you know that the average American will spend more than seven hours getting somewhere for the holidays? At least that’s what a new survey by SC Johnson suggests.

“You’ll likely encounter traffic,” says Steven Orma, a clinical psychologist and mental health expert who specializes in treating stress. “You’ll probably encounter rude passengers. Delays may happen.”

No doubt. Nearly 47 million Americans took to the highways for Thanksgiving this year, making it the busiest driving holiday in eight years, according to AAA. Expect more of the same for Christmas, fueled by a healthy economy and low fuel prices.

The skies will be crowded, too, as 45 million customers are predicted to fly during the 19-day period from just before Christmas to just after New Year’s Day, an increase of approximately 2 percent, says the Air Transport Association, an airline trade group.

It doesn’t have to be seven hours of torture. Here are the most common holiday travel flash points, and how to handle them.

Pack early and light. There’s never enough room for your luggage, no matter which mode of transportation you choose. That’s because inexperienced travelers overpack, and they wait until the last minute to squeeze everything into their carry-on. Don’t be that person, says Tim Griffin, an airline pilot who runs a workshop that treats fear of flying. “Pack a few days early,” he recommends. “Rushing around packing the night before while you are already anxious will only add to the stress.”

Bring toys. Leaving early or later to avoid the crush of cars remains the best advice for motorists. Dave Blackmer, who works for a health care company in Salt Lake City, offers this irreverent tip for destressing: “We have a family tradition of keeping bubbles in the car, so we can brighten our day when we’re stuck in traffic,” he says. “You’d be surprised how much fun you can have by blowing bubbles and how much people band together when they see the simplicity of bubbles floating by.” Other recommended destressing toys include Wiffle balls, coloring books (they have them for adults now) and relaxation CDs.

Say a prayer. Yes, the airport is going to be a nuthouse if you’re flying just before a major holiday — no two ways about it. The pre-holiday strike by baggage handlers at seven major U.S. airports didn’t make anyone feel better. Maybe we should all say a prayer. At least that’s the recommendation of Ros Banks, who works for a vacation rental company in Berlin. “Find the prayer room,” she says. “If you find yourself in need of some quiet time for thinking or reflection, then go there.” Banks says you should treat these interfaith worship areas “with the utmost respect.” You will probably find serenity.

Breathe. If you’re flying, here’s a little practical advice: Print your boarding pass, and check to make sure your flight is leaving on time. Check again a few hours before your scheduled departure. Too many inexperienced travelers forget. One more thing: Don’t forget to breathe. That’s what Micah Mortali, director of the Kripalu Schools of Yoga and Ayurveda in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts, told me. Mortali recommends the neck roll, which you can do in your airline seat. “As you inhale, roll the right ear toward your right shoulder,” he explains. “As you exhale, roll the chin back down to center. Inhale as you roll the left ear to the left shoulder. Exhale down to center, and repeat as desired.” Ah, I feel much better already.

Out is inn. Staying with family can amp up stress levels. I know a thing or two about that. “It can be well worth the expense to have your own space by staying at a nearby hotel or B&B,” advises Hilary Stockton, the CEO of a luxury travel company. “Balance family holiday gatherings with some time to yourself, relaxing in the hotel pool or with a spa massage.”

Take care of yourself. Perhaps the best way to cope with holiday stress is to mind your behavior. Mostly, be kind to yourself. “Make healthy choices to reduce stress levels,” says Mike Kelly, CEO of On Call International, a travel risk management provider. “Don’t indulge in an airport drink or road trip latte, as flying and traveling dehydrate the body. Stay as active as possible, taking frequent breaks when driving long distances, or stretching during a flight.”

If you treat yourself well, it’s easier to treat those around you well. When that happens, everyone has a great holiday trip.

How to behave on your holiday trip

Be nice. “Everyone is trying to see their loved ones and enjoy the holidays,” says Elizabeth McCormick, president of Uniglobe Travel Designers, a travel agency. “Kindness always prevails over rudeness.”

No yelling. A recent poll of travelers by Homewood Suites and Home2Suites found one-third of respondents admitted to yelling at a total stranger when traveling. Don’t be that person. Raised voices will just ruin everyone’s holiday trip.

Remember the four-second rule. When you find yourself getting annoyed and frustrated by a situation, close your eyes, says Achim Nowak, author of The Moment (New Page Books) and interpersonal communication expert. Wait four seconds. “When you open your eyes, the world will look different to you,” he says. “Guaranteed.” Works for any holiday travel problem — except when you’re driving a car, of course.

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Cavalry Travel Insurance

Cavalry takes the worry of out travel by providing 24/7 access to medical and security professionals combined with the best medical evacuation and security extraction services. Cavalry gets you home safely when you need it most. Learn more at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International,, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Send this to a friend