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Note: All travel is subject to frequently-changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state, and local advisories before scheduling trips.

The holidays are back. And with them, a new kind of travel and family gathering stress that none of us have ever experienced. To help you make the most of this heartwarming and often trying time of year, consider the following pandemic strategies and proven travel advice.

RELATED: 6 great reasons to book a vacation rental this holiday season

See the silver lining

Despite the Delta variant, COVID infections have finally begun to wane thanks to nearly 60% of the US population now being fully vaccinated. We’re not out of the woods yet, but that’s a positive reality that everyone should be grateful for, especially as we gather around the family table.

Set safety boundaries with family

Unlike past holidays, this year will force you to have some crucial conversations before, during, and after your family visit. For example, is everyone vaccinated? How can you protect kids who are too young for the vaccine? While some people might feel more comfortable canceling gatherings altogether this year, those who decide to attend must talk with family members about the rules of engagement and what will happen if someone gets sick or tests positive during a visit. As always, don’t forget to remind your relatives of any off-limit topics that you will not discuss.

Book free-cancellation reservations

When it comes to booking accommodations and airfare, lets you filter results by free-cancellation policies, which many hotels, vacation rentals, and airlines (but not all) are now offering thanks to these uncertain times. Since anything can change at any moment, you don’t want the extra stress of footing the bill for a trip you can’t complete.

Double your travel times

Book your rental car now! Unlike previous years, you may not always be able to get one during peak travel periods due to the global car shortage, plus rental rates will continue to rise as the holidays near. Also, don’t expect traffic or weather to be lighter or normal this year, especially as Americans are roadtripping at increased levels due to the pandemic. To ensure you don’t arrive late, plan to double the time it will take to get where you want to be.

Use flex time to your advantage

With the many offices still offering work remote, consider using that newfound flexibility to travel during off-peak times, days, weeks, or even months. Doing so will not only save you time and money, it will significantly reduce your stress level during your visit. You may even want to tack a few days onto your visit and work remotely to maximize your time with family!

Treat yourself

Oftentimes we get caught up in appeasing others over the holidays. But remember, this is technically a vacation, so it’s important to make time for yourself, as well. That could mean a scheduled time-out or solo activity that you want to do. Or it could be treating yourself with your favorite books, movies, games, holiday snacks, or even melatonin (to help with sleep) during key parts of your visit.

Follow these travel hacks

When it comes to making your travels easier and more enjoyable, make use of the hacks travel pros often lean on. For instance, use TSA PreCheck (get it free when you reach Platinum status with Orbitz Rewards) or Global Entry to bypass long airport security lines. Ship presents beforehand instead of schlepping them cross country. Travel on non-stop flights when possible. Pack lighter for less mental baggage. And when you see a good detour, take it!

Go with the flow

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that you can only control so much, and it’s often very little. So when something happens this holiday that you weren’t expecting, just roll with it. Make the most of it. Don’t stress over what you cannot control. If your flight is delayed, play a game of Hearts (or another favorite) with family to pass the time. You might be surprised how fun it can be.

Be grateful

People celebrating Christmas

Research has shown again and again that a thankful heart is a happy one. So if you’re able to visit family this year, be grateful for that. If you’re part of the majority that has beaten this plague of a year, celebrate that. After all, ’tis the season to be grateful.


About the author: Blake Snow contributes to fancy publications and Fortune 500 companies as a writer-for-hire and frequent travel columnist. He lives in Provo, Utah with his supportive family and loyal dog.

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Blake Snow

Blake Snow

Blake writes for fancy publications and Fortune 500 companies as a seasoned writer-for-hire and energetic travel columnist. He lives in Provo, Utah with his loving family and loyal dog, and hopes to visit all seven continents someday.

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