stress free holiday travel tips

Don’t you just love long weekends?

Easter just passed, and Victoria Day is coming up quickly. Then summer will give us Canada Day, the Civic Holiday and then Labour Day.

These extended weekends are the perfect time to travel back home (or elsewhere) for a quick visit – and that’s usually what I do.

When it comes to going home for holidays and celebrations, the first thing people think of is stress.

Having travelled back home on so many weekends over the past 11 years, I’ve learned a few tricks on how to keep my stress levels from going through the roof.

Here are 6 of my most relied upon tips for getting through these weekend escapes with ease.

Pack light. 

For the longest time, I majorly overpacked every single time I went back home (or anywhere else). That fear of being away from your things is something we all struggle with, but in recent years I’ve learned as much as I can about living with less to combat work-from-home stress (clutter stresses me out like nothing else) – and it’s especially helpful when it comes to travelling.

If you’re going to be travelling via a train, bus, or plane – you really don’t want to be hauling around a heavy bag. It’ll become a drag real fast, and you’ll get to the end of your trip just to realize you never even touched half of what you packed. Take the time to plan out your outfits in advance, and pack only what you know you will actually need and use.

Believe me, you might pack that Henry Miller novel with a serious intent to finish it, but the weekend will come and go so fast you won’t end up touching it.

I only learned how to implement this idea once I started travelling on planes – checking bags is not only a mega time waster, but who actually trusts these guys not to lose your bag? I can always fit everything I need into a carry-on now, even if it’s for a longer trip.

Do your research. 

If you’re going somewhere new, winging it sounds really fun and exciting (and it certainly can be) but a weekend is only a short time to see a new city – so the more itinerary you have, the more you’ll be able to actually do and see – and the less time you’ll spend looking for a wi-fi connection and googling the city.

 Book everything far in advance. 

This tip gets ruled out for fun, spontaneous, last minute travel – obviously, but for holidays – you know when they’re coming, and you know when you will be expected home at the dinner table.

That means you have plenty of time to book ahead.

If you’re flying, give yourself a 45 days ahead rule so you know you’ll get the best deal.

If you’re taking the bus, Megabus has insanely cheap deals if you book far enough in advance (but they’re not refundable, FYI).

If you’re opting to rent a vehicle, get in there before all the nice Honda cars are taken and you’re stuck with a junky gas guzzler.

I opted for the Honda Fit over Easter, and as I’ve come to expect, it was reliable, safe, pretty and gave amazing gas mileage. It’s the perfect road trip car if you’re not travelling with a big group (and it’s the most affordable new car you buy from Honda, which is awesome, too.)

Remember, prices for everything get hiked up for long weekends/holidays, so the earlier you get in there, the less painful it will be on your wallet.

Also, once you have everything booked, you can count half the stress of such trips washed away. Just like that, all you’ll have to worry about is making small talk with awkward relatives you only see on holidays… and if your mom will be in a good mood this time.

There’s an app for that.

Yes, I’m as app obsessed as everyone else. If you really want to streamline travel plans and easily share them with your travelling companion, apps like PlanApple, TripIt and TouristEye will keep your itinerary in your hands (via your smartphone).

Don’t travel too far. 

The key thing about weekend travel is you only have a weekend. Yes, it’s a long weekend, but that only affords you an extra 24 hours before you have to be back at your desk making magic happen. Spending most of that free time on the road (or in the air) is just stupid. Save the trips outside the 3-hour drive or 1-hour plane ride for your next full week off.

Be a tourist in your town. 

Since most of my long weekends trips have been spent visiting my family 2 hours south of Toronto, the only way to keep it interesting is to try and do or see something I might have ignored growing up.

You know those people who grew up in Toronto and still have never been to the top of the CN Tower? Having grown up just outside Niagara Falls – I mostly avoided it knowing it as the tourist trap it can be. But in recent years I’ve had fun visiting the city and embracing my inner tourist. There’s something absolutely amazing about walking down Clifton Hill and seeing the Falls start to emerge, riding the Skywheel at night, climbing down the Gorge with my family for the first time, or going for an aimless drive in the country backroads (because I certainly don’t get to do these things in Toronto).

We always take home for granted, but sometimes it’s the best place to explore.

Bonus: Leave early. 

There is nothing like the hell of being stuck in long weekend bumper to bumper traffic on the Gardiner. Or heading to the bus station trying to make a certain bus only to have to wait in line for an hour to get your ticket because of how packed it is, and missing it. Beat the rush if you can. Ask to leave work a few hours early, pack the night before, and get out before everyone else hits the road.

If most of the stress comes from dealing with family and getting everything booked, the rest comes from road rage. Avoiding it is the best policy.

 Lisa