Counseling Corner: Making holiday travel a better experience

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We are entering one of the busiest, and most stressful, travel periods of the year. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, travel to a destination 50 miles or more away increases by over 50 percent for Thanksgiving and by almost 25 percent for Christmas and New Year’s.

While that adds up to even more cars on the road, and usually longer lines at airport TSA, it doesn’t necessarily have to mean more holiday travel stress for you.

You can actually lower your travel stress by simply accepting that there are some things you can’t control. Bad weather, airport delays, traffic jams or long waits at airport security are all outside your control, no matter how frustrated they may make you feel.

Instead, focus on the things you can control, including your own feelings. Start by planning as much as you can. If it’s a driving trip, check the weather reports and if a bad storm is looming, see if you could depart earlier or later to miss the worst of it.

Planning can also minimize airport delays. Experts advise booking an early flight, for example. Airports are often less crowded then and it leaves you extra time for a later flight if your flight is delayed, canceled or over-booked. Also know the rules. Is your carry-on the right size? What time do you need to get to the airport? Can you bring wrapped presents?

A little attitude adjustment can even help with a seemingly endless TSA security line. Instead of feeling frustrated, do something silly like checking out your fellow passengers. Try guessing silently where they’re going, what their line of work is, or even why they’re dressed like that out in public.

The best way to handle stress and frustration is simply to refocus your mind away from the thing that is upsetting you. If it’s a traffic jam, getting mad doesn’t make other cars disappear, but playing something on the radio, telling the kids a story, or doing anything else that takes the focus off the immediate problem will make you feel better.

And most importantly, keep your kids happy, or at least occupied. Don’t forget their games, a couple of books, or snacks for when they’re suddenly starving. Happy kids mean less stressed out parents.

Holiday travel may not always be fun, but there’s no reason it has to be high stress.

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