Tame Stressful Travel

Written by Paul Wolf

Advice on how to take the stress out of travel. Don't let planes, trains and automobiles make a wreck of your vacation.

Let's get one thing straight, travel is just that travel; it's not to be confused with a vacation.

En route to your destination and even during your trip, stress can threaten to take the relaxation out of your precious vacation time. Much of that stress stems from a feeling that you're not in control of the situation, says cognitive therapist Kathleen Burton, who has a practice in California.

The art of beating travel stress involves a subtle blend of two goals. First, claim control wherever you can. Second, open up to new experiences as they come.

Redefine Control
To name just one example, you can't control traffic, but you can control how early you leave the house for the airport or train station.

"We say arrive at the airport one hour early for domestic flights and two hours early for international," says Sandy Cushman, a California travel agent. "That may seem like a ridiculous amount of time, but I think you can leave even more time."

Most of the control you possess has to do with how well you've researched your destination, the resources you have at your disposal, and your backup plans for inevitable failures.

Yes, things will go wrong. Practice smiling. Flights get delayed. A host forgets that it's this week, not next week, that you arrive at the airport.

The feeling of lost control is partly illusion. If you are, say, traveling in an American city, you can solve most problems as you would in your hometown. Your luggage gets lost: Take it as a sign it's time to buy some new duds.

Be Prepared
Yes, it feels like you're back at work when you are making lists and checking them twice. But a master list is peace-of-mind insurance.

Make a list of what needs to be done and where you've stashed things. Don't lose the list.

See Less, Experience More
You rush on the job. So why do you rush on vacation?

There you are standing before the Lincoln Memorial, and you're already thinking about whether you have time for five more monuments. Are you savoring each moment of your vacation or trying to see it all at a break-neck pace? Leave the schedules at the office, and do only what you have time for on your trip.

Get What You Want
You're sick of the Vegas casinos, but your husband is begging for one more night of Keno and slots. There's no reason you can't both do what you want, separately. He can head down to the action and you can order room service and hit the hot tub.

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Photographer: Dennis Cox

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