Whether it’s on planes, trains or automobiles, travel is an increasingly large part of the holiday season nowadays with so many family members living far apart from each other. And although you may have braved the holiday traffic for many years now, even veterans can learn a new trick or two to make holiday travel easier.
Here are several ideas that can get you started forming new strategies for minimizing stress and maximizing your time spent enjoying the holidays.
Choose the Right Technology
Many cars and nearly every smartphone today come equipped with their own GPS system, but the built-in option isn’t always best. During the holiday season, it pays to comparison shop for navigation apps, particularly when most of the best ones are free. Here are two good options to consider:
Waze has developed a cult-like following of devoted fans who have saved many miles and minutes on the roads thanks to its accurate and instantaneous traffic avoidance technology. It tracks all the vehicles currently using the app to sense when traffic is slowing down in a certain area, then it reroutes users so that they avoid the tight spots. This technology is so successfully that it was actually purchased by Google to use in its own navigation app. But because the success of the technology depends partly upon how many people are currently on the roads using the app, Waze is still the top dog.
Google Maps does have its own big advantage however, in the fact that it utilizes an enormous database of all locations and businesses, so it’s easy to glance at a map and see exactly where you are and where you might want to go. Waze, on the other hand, features some business names, but doesn’t have enough data to name them all, so many spots are left as blank squares. Furthermore, Google Maps has spent years gathering data on traffic patterns, so it is able to offer great advice about which roads to take and which to avoid during the holiday season.
There are definitely benefits to both so why not try them out in the coming weeks so you are prepared for the holiday traffic ahead of time?
Consider Alternate Routes
Now that you’ve been tempted by all of the technology that can make your drive as short as possible, consider the possibility that taking the long way might actually benefit you most. Highway travel during the holidays is heavily congested, and it seems to be getting worse each year. The more cars there are, and the more stressed out the drivers are, the more opportunity for accidents. With this in mind, it may be worth it to take the long way, squeeze in a few scenic stops and attempt to avoid the worst traffic conditions.
Plus, if you take the road less traveled, so to speak, you have the benefit of avoiding overcrowded rest stops so you can get a bite to eat more easily and stretch your legs in a more peaceful setting. Spending too long sitting down isn’t healthy for anyone, and that’s particularly true for seniors, so making sure you are able to park and stretch your legs is about more than convenience, it can be a matter of health.
Consider an Alternate Destination
It may be too late to suggest an alternative meeting place for this year’s holiday season, but while you are together with your family, it’s the perfect time to get a head start on planning next year’s holiday season. Not only is it likely one of the few times when so many of your family members are all together to discuss something in person, all of the logistics—what works and what doesn’t work—will be fresh in everyone’s minds.
Many families with far-flung branches find it easier to meet on neutral territory like at a resort. It prevents any one family from having to bear the burden of hosting and helps ensure that nobody feels like it was unfair to travel so far when others didn’t have to make the same trek. Plus, spending the holidays at a fun (and maybe even warm!) location may help your working family members feel like they spent their vacation days on a true vacation.
The true gift of the holiday season is getting to spend time with friends or family celebrating everything you are thankful for and the joy you give each other. Spend some time this week making a plan to streamline your travel so you can spend less time in the air, on the rails or on the road and get to the good part faster.