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Put the brakes on travel stress

AAA estimates that more than 150 million Americans traveled at least 50 miles from home during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays last year, the most ever. And with travel, comes stress. So, with the potential for another record-setting travel year this holiday season, we asked Primary Care Physician at Tufts Medical Center Kristin Huang, MD to share some tips for reducing travel stress and anxiety, so you can relax and enjoy the holidays with family and friends.

Make Lists

Making lists - from items to pack to things that need to be done around the house before leaving – helps you get organized, which reduces stress.

“Making a packing list a week or two in advance allows you to buy supplies for travel if you don’t already have them, avoiding a frantic rush the night before,” said Dr. Huang. “Apps and other technologies now help you to re-use lists, which should make things easier and save time the next time you travel.”

Be Prepared

When you’re traveling – especially with young kids – it’s almost a guarantee that something is not going to go as planned.

“Don’t have unreasonable expectations for a perfect trip and you’ll be less stressed if and when something does happen,” said Dr. Huang. “Always arm yourself with plenty of snacks, toys for the kids and other diversions to help the whole family get past any hiccups that may occur during the trip.”

Budget Extra Time

The primary sources of travelling stress are delays and the fear of missed flights, trains or buses.

“Budget plenty of time into your schedule, so even if delays or traffic slow you down, you still have enough time to get to the airport or make your connecting flight,” said Dr. Huang. “It’s a big stress reliever to get places early and have plenty of time to spare, which can then be used to relax and do things you enjoy, such as reading a book or listening to a podcast. It also sets the tone for the vacation as a relaxed trip instead of a hurried, harried, stressful travel experience.”

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

Even though you’re traveling, it doesn’t mean that you should abandon healthy habits you abide by at home.

“Sometimes when we travel, our healthy intentions go out the window, and that makes us feel worse physically and increases stress,” said Dr. Huang. “Keep your body healthy and prevent illness by staying active every day and by getting enough sleep, which helps recharge our bodies and minds. Eating local cuisine is part of travelling, but try to still eat fruits and vegetables every day and don’t overindulge.”

Have Something to Look Forward to When You Get Home

It can be depressing to return to “normal life” after a great vacation. Having something fun to look forward to when you arrive home can help reduce anxiety and depression.

“We know that post-vacation blues is a real phenomenon and that transitioning back to work and normal life after a vacation can be hard,” said Dr. Huang. “Plan a dinner with friends or other activities you look forward to for when you come back. It will aid the transition back to real life, reduce stress and help ward off the post-vacation blues.”