How to Survive the Holiday Travel Season (Without Murdering Someone)

Seasoned traveler or not, the holiday season is a popular and hectic time of year for traveling. Christmas-themed destinations such as Aspen, Colorado, New York City and Lapland, Finland are filled with amazing events, celebrations and activities.

For some, being away from friends and family may be difficult but it’s easy to overcome by focusing on a few simple details. I’ve heard of people who are so afraid of getting homesick they avoid anything “Christmas-y”, pray it will be over quickly, and get on with their travels. But this usually just ends up in regret.

Your best bet then is to embrace it. This is a great opportunity to learn about new cultures, traditions and (perhaps best of all) foods! From decorations to events, weather and so many different things that a country can offer, spending Christmas abroad will provide you with a handful of learning experiences.

Here are a few simple tips to help you survive from the moment you leave and throughout the holiday:

Go for Smooth Travel

Getting there can be part of the fun or simply stress you out before you’ve even arrived. Follow every tip you can find online about flying during the holiday season or even busy days. Do your best to buy your tickets early and book a direct flight if possible.

As much as we all hate to head to the airport at crazy times, flying early in the morning or overnight has its perks – less people around and you can sleep your way through. Check your calendar before booking a flight; make sure you avoid popular travel dates too.

Also, allow enough time to travel back and forth. That way, if you suffer any delays, you won’t be missing any important celebrations or activities. Prepare yourself physically and mentally.

Any holiday travel will be crowded so you’re likely to be held up at the airport somehow or other. Pack light, take a well-stocked carry on, some good reading material and don’t stress out if you get stuck waiting around.

Christmas Market Rathausmarkt Hamburg
Christmas Market Rathausmarkt Hamburg © Mark Michaelis

A Learning Experience

No matter where you travel, each country has it’s own traditions and festivities for the holiday season. Keep an open mind! It’ll be a great learning experience and you’ll be avoiding all the Christmas hassles back home.

Staying with a family is ideal but so is volunteering or even staying at a hostel. Any of these locations will give you that family feel and you’ll probably end up making friends for life.

Join the celebrations”¦ whether religious or not, this is a great opportunity to learn about the cultures and traditions of the country you’re visiting. Look for Christmas events and join in!. It’ll be an eye-opening experience. Religious processions, tree lightings, special markets, parades, you name it, go to as many as you can as it will help keep your mind off friends and family back home.

Go shopping too! Buy a little something for your travel friends as this will keep you in the Christmas spirit and strengthen your bond during the holiday season. Do your best to shop local and stick to buying little knickknacks from small vendors. This will help the local community and keep you away from busy shopping centers.

Do you like to cook? Offer to prepare dinner or help with the festivities, as either of these will allow you to connect better with your new friends and keep you busy on Christmas Day. Join in and help make some tamales if you’re in Central America, offer to prep a juicy all-American turkey or go buy a bucket of KFC chicken if you’re visiting Japan. Do your best to focus on the local traditional foods if possible. It might not be the perfect 5-star meal but your effort will be appreciated and you’ll all be in for a fun night!

"Homesick" (spelled out in keyboard keys on white)
© LUH 3417

Avoid Being Homesick

Holiday season or not, loneliness and homesickness can strike easily. But being homesick is a mental state that can be easily overcome if you put your mind to it.

Visit all your friends and family before you leave. Let them know about your travel plans and spend some good quality time with them.

Pack a couple of your favorite things, something simple that reminds you of home. I recommend photos of your family, books about your home country, a stuffed animal, special gifts from your loved ones or even your favorite fluffy onesie pajamas that your friends make fun of.

If you’re with a family or in a hostel, don’t be shy to express yourself and be honest about missing home. Chances are you’re not alone! Talking about home always helps, so share photos with your new friends or host family. Tell them about your culture, your traditions, the places you love to visit and other popular destinations. You can also do this by offering to cook a meal from your country or showing them a fun traditional dance.

iPad telephony
© Per Olof Forsberg

Keeping in Touch

This one is tricky. With computers, tablets and smartphones, it’s so easy to stay in touch with home on a daily basis. This can sometimes be too much of a good thing, constantly talking to your family and friends might keep you from enjoying your travels.

Use mobile apps such as iMessage, WhatsApp or Viber for texting and keeping in touch but also remember to turn your phone off when you’re out at events, having dinner or enjoying time with your new friends.

You can also use Skype or Facetime to talk to your family and see each other. Set specific dates and times to do this and don’t make it a daily thing. Don’t allow your online time to get in the way of your quality travel time.

The Bottom Line

Just Let go and enjoy! Travel is about meeting new people, learning new things and experiencing new friendships and cultures. It’s a time to eat, drink and be merry!

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