Tips to make Thanksgiving travel less stressful

17 November 2022
Tips to make Thanksgiving travel less stressful

Holiday stress is a thing. When you pack in a lot of travel simultaneously, people (that’s you and everyone around you) can start to get short-tempered.

That sinking feeling in your stomach at the thought of seeing family you try to avoid the rest of the year is only the beginning. Just knowing that Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel times of the year, airlines are planning for chaos, and the TSA checkpoint passenger numbers are rising … it could be a tough travel season ahead.

Here’s what the experts are saying to help travelers manage holiday travel stress.

1. Identify the source of your travel stress

To cope with the stress, it helps to know the root cause, or the source, of the stress. If you can sit with the uncomfortableness for some minutes and allow your mind to wander over it, you can learn what the trigger is.

  • Worried about airline delays and cancellations? Buy a back-up ticket. No kidding, it’s one of the hottest travel hacks right now. 
  • Concerned about all that family time? Learn ways to say no positively and take breaks! A few brisk walks around the neighborhood throughout the day can clear your head.
  • Anxious about the routine that’s working for you now being all shaken up? Write down what’s working in your current routine, and (adjusting for the time and weather differences) create a schedule that’s as close as possible while you’re away.

The source of your own anxiety may be none of these things or something completely different. Still, the fact remains: if you can’t identify it, you can’t have a plan for it.

2. Travel on off-days

Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday following are the days with the most expensive airline tickets and the most packed airports.

Avoid these days at all costs! Do these things instead:

  • Go early – like days early – and make it a vacation for yourself.
  • Fly into another airport entirely and make it a fun trip to get to Grandma’s house (a Monday spa day, perhaps?)
  • Fly home (or somewhere else entirely) on Black Friday — you can shop on Cyber Monday instead, right?

If you really, truly have to travel for Thanksgiving, make it fun and personal to you. If you know you have a relaxing night in a lovely hotel before the big day and/or something fun the day after, the holiday won’t feel so bleak.

Traveling with kids? Take a look at United Airlines’ most recent announcement to bring back kids’ meals.

3. Upgrade your ticket, upgrade your life

Here’s a tip: most business travelers aren’t traveling on the holidays. 

What does that mean for you?

It means all those bigger, comfier seats are empty! And available at a much cheaper-than-normal price. When it’s not that much more money, it can be worth it. Learn to use the airline seat advisor sites, check your points, and whip out that travel card.

If you can’t get an upgrade, see how to make economy feel like business class.

4. Give yourself the gift of time

It could sound repetitive, and the importance of giving yourself extra time just can’t be overstated. So it’s worth saying it again. 

Leave early for the airport, buy tickets with longer layovers, and fly days ahead of time. 

If there’s traffic, you can relax. If the TSA is backed up, pull out your headphones and listen to a podcast or music. 

If you arrive at the gate early and have some extra time, settle into a seat and relax. People watch, read a book, or catch up on favorite shows. Look at the ‘extra’ time as your own personal downtime and savor it.

Fun tip: Lowes and Wyndham, two brands have teamed up to glitz out airport hotels. So, if you find yourself stranded at one of the nation’s business airports on Wednesday the 23rd, it could be your lucky day.

5. Treat your health well when you’re stressed

If you find yourself feeling worried, anxious, or even angry, taking the very best care of yourself is first priority. Your health and sanity are too important to brush off or ignore.

  • Treat your sleep as critical. Do everything you can to get good, solid sleep.
  • Get some exercise, even if it’s not as much as you normally do.
  • Drink water – more water than you normally do – every single day (it helps you sleep and counteracts alcohol).
  • Balance time with family with time on your own. Taking frequent walks is the only way I got through a terrible week of funerals last year; I can’t recommend this strategy enough.

Pro tips: Learn these hotel hacks for great sleep.

6. Plan something to look forward to after

Coming home from a long and/or stressful trip can be tiring and an emotional roller-coaster ride. If you think it will be difficult to shed the stress and get back to your routine, it helps to have something to look forward to.

Plan something enjoyable for yourself for when you return. It can alleviate the holiday travel stress and ensure that you are prioritizing yourself.

Read more useful and practical tips on managing holiday stress.

Damian Tysdal

Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and is a licensed agent for travel insurance (MA 1883287). He believes travel insurance should be easier to understand, and started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.

Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and is a licensed agent for travel insurance (MA 1883287). He believes travel insurance should be easier to understand, and started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.