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Take the dread out of holiday travel

By Tammy Smith

Traveling over the holidays always carries a certain amount of stress, but several factors can up that stress level this year. Here are some suggestions that might make that trip a little more enjoyable.

PLAN EARLY 

Book airfare and hotel rooms as soon as possible. You might even find some deals by shopping around! Reserve your rental car now if you plan to drive. Try to avoid the peak travel days. For Christmas, that would be Dec. 23 and the day or two after Dec. 25. If you can, try leaving Dec. 22 and returning after Dec. 27. If you’re willing to travel on Christmas Day, that could be another way to save, although you’ll celebrate the holiday later. 

HEALTH IN MIND 

If you’re flying, be aware of the COVID-19 guidelines, both in your own state and in the state you’re visiting. If you are traveling internationally, a negative COVID-19 test may be required prior to arrival at your destination and upon your return to the U.S., even if you’re vaccinated. 

Remember, you will be required to wear a mask while in the airport and while in flight. Bring hand sanitizer, too. 

ON THE ROAD 

If you’re driving, be prepared for a variety of gas prices. A gallon of gas here on the Mississippi Coast could be much less expensive than in other parts of the country. Pack snacks for fewer stops along the way. Keep hand sanitizer in the car for when you do need to stop. 

IN THE AIR 

Consider signing up for a TSA PreCheck membership (https://www.tsa.gov/precheck/faq) to shorten your time in line, but still be prepared for a wait. Download your boarding pass to your phone before you arrive. 

GIVE YOURSELF PLENTY OF TIME 

Whether you are driving or flying, expect heavy traffic and plan accordingly. TSA has experienced staffing shortages recently, so getting through airport security is likely to take longer. The situation is similar for all facets of the travel and hospitality industry, so don’t be surprised to see long lines at hotels, rental car counters and elsewhere. Don’t be in a rush; leave yourself a time buffer. 

DON’T STRESS 

That’s easier said than done, but find ways to relax before and during the trip. Practice deep breathing and listen to uplifting music if you’re driving. Make a few stops for stretches and fresh air. Think about the purpose of your trip: You’re getting away to a destination or going to visit loved ones on a special day. 

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