Don't fall over your feet with stress this Christmas. (Photo: iStock)
There's no need to get yourself bound in knots and bows over the festive and peak travel seasons.
But, as many of us know, the heaps of stress that accompany festive travels are as common as finding the malls and beaches chockablocked in SA during the season.
What if I told you we have some top tips sure to not have you sick with stress over your festive travels and even, dare I say, ENJOYING the holidays?
Bizarre, I know, but hear me out.
READ: How to hack your way to smoother travels in 2019
From being an early planner to en route distractions - these tips are sure to help you unwrap your stress during your festive travels...
List it out
I know, I know, we always tell you this one, but it's important.
With great power comes great responsibility and with the power and responsibility of planning the ideal festive vacation - the stress can be overwhelming.
But, I swear, jotting down what you need to sort out before your trip will save you the bulk of that worrying.
Make lists for who and what gifts you need to get - that can also be easily carted with you on the journey.
Make lists of all the doccies you need and the fifty backups and copies you need to make of them for any emergencies.
Make lists for what you need to pack from clothing to snacks to toiletries to gadgets - always be prepared and tick off your worries as you go.
SEE THESE Travel List Printables: Prep like a pro for your next road trip
Save to save yourself
Budget wisely in advance and avoid splurging if you genuinely cannot. Disclose your budget limitations in this unsteady economy and agree with your friends and family to not sweat about extravagant gifts or vacations.
The festive season is about fun, sun and relaxation. Not stress, debt and regret.
Budget accordingly if you do wish to splurge and save yourself the panic attack as your bank account and dream plans don't align.
CHECK OUT: The fuel price hike doesn't have to kill your road trip dreams: How to save when driving long distances
Avoid the mall maul and the packed beach crawl
Anyone who is anyone knows how disgustingly congested the Saffa beaches and malls get over the festive season.
Like a swarm of bees to the thick slick of the sweaty honey solace that both of these venues offer during a blazing summer - they become honey melting pots of stress just waiting to be stirred.
Avoid them by planning all of your festive shopping in advance or seeking out the most recluse dorpie malls and markets and secret beaches to get the same honey coated solace without the overwhelming buzz.
Avoid experimenting and play it safe
Tis the season to play it safe.
Trust me, and my two flopped non-bake desserts I tried for the first time the night before events, experimenting with something new for the first time on the time it counts is probably one of the most deadly stress sins.
If you haven't tried out that new festive dessert recipe or a new, recluse, vacation venue before the festive season, it's probably best to steer clear of it until further notice.
You don't need that added stress - play it safe with what you know is a favourite dish or vacay idea among everyone joining you for celebrations.
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Lighten the load
Pack light and unpack the extra weight from your shoulders this festive season.
If you're only going for a few days - pack wisely. Plan outfits you can mix and match with a few recyclable pieces and avoid having to lug around heavy bags when trying to embrace a vacation mood.
WATCH: Are you packing correctly? 7 tips to help you avoid overpacking
Avoid peak travel days like the plague
This might be too little too late if you've yet to jet off for your festive travels, but always try to plan your travel days far away from the peak travel days - like the last few days just before Christmas or NYE.
Not only will the traffic make you think some truly dark and scary thoughts about your fellow road trippers, but accommodations and travel prices tend to hike during these days - so plan in advance to save you the stress and some extra cash money.
Heading out in advance can also offer the needed buffer zone to help you account for any last minute unpredictable weather conditions that might muck up your trip altogether.
ALSO READ: Hop to it: How to save on peak-season travel costs
Leave home early
Pack a few days or nights before and head out early enough to avoid the thick of fellow stressing passengers scrambling last minute to reach their flights or to crowd the highways.
Appease the hanger beforehand
Be sure to eat a lekker meal before embarking on your travels - no need to let the hanger get you cranky on top of any other unforeseen stresses that might spring up.
ALSO WATCH: Travelling rituals & useful tips to help smooth out your next holiday
Accept that perfection is a long-distant memory or myth and messiness is okay
Look, I have to break it to you, I didn't want to be the Grinch, but the festive season is messy - a lovely mess, though.
You get to see all of your loved ones and celebrate and have a proper jol - but if you're thinking it's going to go off without a hiccup or mishap along the way - you're in for a stressful disappointment.
The sooner we let go of the idea that everything ought to be perfect according to a perfectly curated itinerary and plan and Pinterest board - the sooner we'll always be prepared for minor or major disasters and the sooner we'll feel less stressed about it if disaster does strike.
The pre-wrap is a trap
I know you probably think wrapping your gifts pre-trip is a wise 'ol idea, but you need to account for the possibility that airport security will demand you to unwrap them.
Avoid becoming a knotted stress ball soaked in tears on the floor as you watch your carefully wrapped masterpiece of glitter, festive paper and ribbons of pristine quality fall lifelessly beside you by merely packing in your wrapping equipment and wrapping gifts at your destination instead.
ALSO WATCH: How to save packing space on toiletries for your next weekend road trip
Book your parking slot in advance
Airport parking can get packed super fast around the popular festive travel times.
Avoid the stress of having to park several kilometres away by calling the airport to see if you can procure a parking spot in advance.
Label your baggage
LABEL YOUR BAGS. LABEL YOUR BAGS. LABEL YOUR BAGS.
I cannot stress this enough.
Print out labels or buy labels to fill in your details - name, addy, contact number, email etc. - to ensure that they can easily be returned to you should they go missing in transit or delayed during one leg of your journey.
Stay on the pulse of changes
Download the necessary apps of your airlines, airports and travel planners to keep abreast on any changes or delays that might throw off your journey or catch you off guard consequently hurling you into a world of worry.
ALSO CHECK OUT: Trippo, FourSquare and other useful, search-and-discover travel apps
Distract the halflings
Avoid the stress of nagging youngins in your back seat or trailing beside you on your travels by ensuring you have the necessary distractions.
Pack a good 'ol Barney bag of distractive tricks like colouring books, toys and digital games or movies (charged up) to keep them entertained and you relaxed.
DID YOU READ: Family road tripping 101: How to keep everyone entertained
Plan out your daily itineraries
Planning out a general day to day plan for your trip can take the stress of having to figure out what to do each day or rushing the morning to curate a plan of action.
Make sure, however, to leave the appropriate lee way for any changes, mishaps or additions to your daily schedule - but have a general day by day plan to avoid thy stiff necks and throbbing temples.
Carve out some solo time to treat yo'self
It's the festive season, you're on vacation - make time to actually enjoy it.
Sprinkle in some solo time to indulge in things you enjoy whether it's skydiving or just curling up with a good book and your favourite festive snack.
Make time for yourself as well as those you're with.
Ask for help
Don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
The festive season is about giving as much as it is about helping.
Your fellow travellers and festive fam are likely to be willing to lend thy helping hand.
BE SURE TO ALSO WATCH: How to prep for a self-catering trip like a pro
Don't lose sight of what the holidays are about
I know it can often seem like we need to go big or go home and always outdo the previous year with festive activities.
But, in all honesty, we shouldn't forget what the festive season is all about - spending time together and celebrating family, health and prosperity.
Cut yourself and your family some slack and just remember to breathe and be present in the festive vibes.
If all else fails - sniff some citrus
If you still find yourself stressing, consider keeping some lemons or citrus nearby to sniff a whiff of.
Researchers have found that certain citrus fragrances boost feelings of well-being and alleviate stress by upping levels of norepinephrine, a hormone that affects mood.
So, hey, maybe a citrus a day can keep the festive and travel stress at bay?
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