Ah, ’tis the season to be jolly and to travel long-distances with the air-con blazing, bags crammed full of Christmas treats, heads jammed with expectations, bookings, departure times and to-do list’s. Travelling during the silly season is sometimes a necessary evil, forced upon us by family rituals to visit far-flung relatives, kiss their rough unshaven cheeks and politely drink their sickly home-made eggnog concoction.
Others flock to tourist destinations in the search for the holy-grail of serenity and peace only to find that every man and their designer dog has the same idea, and that finding a free square metre on the beach not inhabited by a family of four (plus Fido) is not as easy as the glossy travel brochure promised. But it’s not all doom and Christmas travel gloom. With a little Bear Grylls and Scouts-styled preparation you can overcome the obstacles to find Christmas cheer and joy.
Here’s six common holiday travel conundrums and some tactics to deal with them.
#1 The traffic jam
Obstacle: Traffic banked up as far as the eye can see, horns blaring louder than Christmas carols in a shopping centre but with less rhythm and more swear words.
Tactic: Well-seasoned holiday travellers knows that hitting the highway outside of peak time is key to avoiding snail-paced traffic. But sometimes getting up at the crack of dawn or waiting until the stars-rise is impossible and you must grin and bear the traffic jam.
But you can take precautions to ensure your stagnant journey is as pleasant as possible. Make sure your car is filled up; you should have an array of food and water on hand, and a mixed playlist ready to go.
Remembering that everyone else is as desperate as you are to get to their destination is helpful in keeping your cool, but it can also be fun to point out the people who are less well-mannered. “Check out Mr Angry with the mutton-chops in the black Jeep playing a horn-rendition of Smoke On the Water.”
Survival Importance: 5/10 – Traffic jams are what you make them.
#2 The loud holiday-makers
Obstacle: A group of too-loud, too-merry holiday makers in the hotel room or camping site beside you who want to spread the cheer into the wee hours of the morning singing Barnesy at everyone else’s sleep-deprived expense.
Tactic: At first you welcome their delightful family celebration. “What a bunch of friendly people,” you think, “I wish my family enjoyed karaoke together.” But as the night wears on it becomes evident that there is no end to their raucous celebration of life and rock anthems, and Grinch-inspired thoughts start to creep in.
Now, you can either embrace the Grinch and dob them into the manager or local police for violating your precious sleep sanction and steal their Christmas joy (which is fair enough, they’ve had a good go), or you can jam ear-plugs in and hope the bits of foam are enough to drown out a cackling rendition of The Gambler. Another option is to give up on sleep and join the party, because as they say, if you can’t beat them join them.
Survival Importance: Varies from 3 – 10/ 10, depending on how much sleep you need for optimal jolliness and to avoid the Christmas cranks.
#4 Money, money, money
Obstacle: Your hard-earned cash is drifting through your hands like soft snow. The luxury of Christmas peak season travel comes at a heavy price to your bank account and cash is melting before your eyes.
Tactic: Keeping a budget while on holiday is pretty darn hard. Accommodation and travel expenses are hugely inflated, plus everything is necessary while on a break, like sampling all of the exotic cocktails on the menu. But you don’t want to return home broke, or with a credit card debit that will take the rest of the year to pay off.
Be savvy with your spending, but not a Scrooge. Be realistic about how much you can spend each day and try and keep to the limit. Avoid making of-the-moment holiday purchases that don’t fit into your normal life (clothes you’ll never wear, books you’ll never read), and keep cash in your wallet rather than losing track of it with pay pass.
Survival Importance: 7/10. Money in the bank yo.
#5 How’s the serenity?
Obstacle: The search for some good old serenity is nearly impossible with the crowds of sunburnt holiday makers mingling everywhere. How to get some R’n’R?
Tactic: Everybody goes on holiday with the same expectation: to relax and escape daily life. Nobody wants to be stuck in line in the supermarket breathing down each other’s necks, or fighting over precious sandy real estate just to place your towel on the beach.
There’s no guaranteed tactic to get away from people, but you can make it easier for yourself by avoiding tourist attractions and seeking out lesser-known spots, driving further, going on day-trips and looking beyond the travel brochure suggestions. Or, treat yourself to a day-spa or book into a secluded retreat.
If there’s people around, try and treat them like they’re invisible. They may return the favour.
Survival Importance: 6/10. You need to recharge.
#6 Is Santa Claus coming to town?
Obstacle: You’re worried that jolly old Santa won’t be able to find you at your temporary travel abode.
Tactic: He will find you. It’s Santa, he knows everything – he’s a bit of a stalker in that way.
Survival Importance 10/10
This post was originally published on December 15th, 2015 and has since been updated.