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Buttoned Up: Strategies for traveling sanely this holiday season

Over the river and through the woods…

Although it is hard to believe, the holiday season is upon us again. That means many people will be hitting the roads, rails and skyways in the coming weeks as they celebrate the festive season with family and friends. If you are planning on traveling, know that a little bit of organization goes a long way. Here are six strategies for traveling more sanely this season.

 If you're planning holiday travel, know that a little organization goes a long way.

Photo by (SHNS illustration by Hollie Sehrt and Cindy Rodriguez)

If you’re planning holiday travel, know that a little organization goes a long way.

1. Don’t fly with presents. Ship them. If you are taking to the rails or skies this season, there’s no need to be burdened with bagfuls of presents. They take up precious cabin space and, worse, they may be unceremoniously unwrapped when you go through security. The most efficient option by far is to order gifts online and have them shipped directly to your ultimate destination. Just be sure to tell your host or hostess to be on the lookout for them. If you don’t do this, at the very least you should ship one big box with all of the gifts you’ll need on the big day before you leave.

2. If you haven’t booked your tickets yet, try one of these tricks. While the early birds get the best travel deals, you could get a lucky price break by adapting your plans a bit. First, consider smaller airports within your region. They are more likely to have flights available and they may be less expensive. Second, choose early-morning or late-evening flights as they tend to be the least crowded. Finally, choose a return trip on a non-peak day, such as the Friday after Thanksgiving or the day after Christmas. All of these options are less than ideal, but that’s why there are deals on them in the first place.

3. Pack light. No matter how you go, the typical traveler will typically only wear one or two core outfits out of everything in the suitcase. Rather than packing a completely different ensemble for each day of your trip, identify two or three basic pieces you can mix and match. Then use accessories to make them look different every day. Limit yourself to two pairs of shoes as well.

4. Expect delays. The potent mix of winter weather, traffic congestion and lots of people that have to get through security means you should leave for the airport with the expectation that your flight will be delayed. Pack your briefcase or purse accordingly. You will want entertainment for yourself and any small children, snacks and a cheat sheet with the contact information for the airlines, hotels, rental-car companies you will be using. If you’re traveling by car, take the time to find a less-traveled route. You’ll be rewarded with less traffic and more beautiful environments. Plus, if you have small children, finding fun places to stop along the way is much easier.

5. Take a page from the book of frequent fliers. Those intrepid road warriors know that the departures board can be pure fantasy. That’s why they pay attention to what’s happening to arrivals. Knowing that their originating flight is late well before anyone at the gate is notified means they have a leg up on all the other passengers when it comes to finding alternate flights. Since they only take carry-on luggage, they risk nothing when they switch flights or if they have a connecting flight that is delayed. 6. Pack an extra bag for gifts to bring home. If you anticipate that you will be bringing gifts home from your travels, pack an additional duffle or carry-on bag in your suitcase if you don’t want to spend the money shipping them home. It’s better to have one central bag for them than to try to cram them into already-filled suitcases or have them rattling around loose in your car.

(The writers are co-founders of Buttoned Up, a company dedicated to helping stressed women get organized. Send ideas and questions to yourlife(at) For more columns, go to

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