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

The 2020 holiday season has the potential to add an extra special dose of stress to an already challenging year for families planning to travel. Perhaps you’re finally seeing your grandparents for Hanukkah, or maybe you decided to spend Christmas with your siblings after not seeing them for months. Regardless, a lot more thought is likely going into travel plans this year, though that doesn’t have to also mean a lot more stress. So if you’re planning to head over the river and through the woods, we’ve got a few helpful hints that will make traveling a bit easier. That way, the only stress you’ll have to worry about is what to buy dad for Christmas.

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Get everyone on the same page

First and foremost, you and your family (or friends, whoever you’re planning to spend the holidays with) need to have a serious talk about expectations. Is everyone going to quarantine for two weeks prior to being together? Do you expect everyone to get tested before they arrive at your house? Will guests wear masks while they’re not eating? What rules do you need everyone to follow to feel comfortable? Make a list and have a chat with your loved ones so that everyone can be on the same page before arrival. Knowing the people in your holiday bubble are all following the same protocols will allow everyone to better enjoy themselves.

Book smart to keep your plans flexible

For added peace of mind, Travelocity offers new tools to help you book with confidence, just in case you plans change. You can filter your hotel search results to easily find properties that offer free cancellation. You can also easily search flights without change fees. 

Filter for flights and hotels with enhanced safety standards 

When searching hotels, you can filter your results by enhanced cleaning standards. You can also choose your flight based on enhanced safety precautions, thanks to badging that indicates which airlines require masks, temperature checks and more.

Make your list and check it twice

What do you need to pack? Have you purchased all your gifts? Did you remember to pack snacks or games for the car? Are the tablets charged and loaded with movies for the kids? Making a list and seeing everything you need to do all written out allows you to visualize everything that needs to get done. In the times of COVID, this list probably includes extra items like ample masks and hand sanitizer. As for car safety, be sure you have blankets, extra water, flares, a flashlight, jumper cables and a tire jack. For convenience and cost savings, you may even want to finally get a toll transponder: It could help you eschew long holiday toll lines and, in many states like Illinois, those with a transponder account pay half what other cars pay.

Plan meals and shop early

People who are spending the holidays with actual other people are probably pretty excited, especially after months of quarantining and social distancing. Help with the holiday meal planning and shop early for anything that can be purchased ahead of time. Need a turkey? Most stores allow you to reserve one well in advance. Many stores also offer contact-free pickup or delivery to keep shopping as sanitary as possible. Planning ahead means you won’t be frustrated by any shortage of ingredients. And maybe pick up an extra pack of toilet paper for your host!

Pack for the pandemic

Think of this as your COVID kit. Grab hand sanitizer, bleach wipes, gloves if you wear them, a no-touch instant thermometer and extra masks which are required in most public places these days—better safe than sorry. Disposable masks are now widely available, inexpensive and often come in packs of 5. Having this kit readily accessible will give you the confidence that you won’t run out of a necessary item.

Book a rental car early

Since more people will be traveling via automobile this year, be sure to book your rental car early on Travelocity to get a good price. This ensures you get the type and size of car you need and means you’ll get to book it for the exact dates you want it for.  To eliminate the stress of running late to return it (we know we’re always pushing it to return it on time), prepay the gas. That’s one thing scratched off the to-do list before you’ve even started!

Keep an eye on the forecast

The weather can change at any time so just because it wasn’t supposed to rain the day you hit the road, doesn’t mean it won’t. Hopefully the travel fairies will send you perfect driving conditions, but in the event they don’t, be sure to allow extra time so that you can drive slowly and safely.

Map out your trip ahead of time

We know, you probably use Waze or Google Maps and type your destination in right as you hop in the car. But if you check your map early, even just the night before, you’ll know if there are any road closures you should consider or alternate routes that might be faster. It’ll also help you prepare for possible treacherous driving conditions, like winding mountain roads.

If you do fly, allow extra time at the airport

Fewer people might be flying this year, but that doesn’t mean the lines will be much shorter, since in some cases, fewer TSA agents will be stationed at security. It’s the holiday season, so it’s best to assume wait times will be longer than normal and more people will be anxious to get through security. Yes, it’ll mean more time in a mask, but giving yourself extra minutes to get through the airport also means you won’t have to stress about running late.

Keep strollers and car seats germ free

If you’re flying with children, use a travel bag for your stroller and/or car seats. When you check items like this, many people touch them and who knows what kind of germs are lurking in the belly of the plane. By using a travel bag, you’ll keep those items germ free (not to mention scratch free) and you won’t have to worry about your little one catching something.

Take a less-is-more approach to the holidays

This year has been a doozie and if you have your health, your family and your friends, you are one of the lucky ones. Maybe this is the year to cut back on gift giving and receiving, and focus more on catching up and having meaningful conversations. Maybe it’s the year to appreciate those things, the intangible ones, that matter most.

Travelocity compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site; such compensation may include travel and other costs.

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