One of the most special things about the holidays is the chance to gather with family once again. Seeing loved ones after another year has passed by means a great deal, and it’s very exciting! Nothing quite measures up to hugs and handshakes from those we hold most dear. While they say getting there is half the fun, there are definitely surefire ways to keep the traveling a bit less hectic for everyone.

To Prepare, Think Negatively

I know, I know, but this is the saying that truly gives you the foresight to prepare for anything that could go wrong. Think about it, delays, emotions, forgetting things, and looking out for smaller ones are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to holiday travel. Remembering these six steps to prepare will keep things running smoothly and everyone in good spirits. Most importantly, they will allow your time spent among family to be used as intended, for fond, long-lasting memories.

Get Prepared

The unfavorable scenarios that can happen to us during travel are things like realizing you don’t have the faintest idea where to park at the airport on the day you leave, or maybe you forgot to fuel-up the car the day before. These situations take up precious time and try our patients. You may also get annoyed with others you’ve been depending upon who also forgot to think of these things. We are all only human after all. So here are the six secret rules to live by when traveling for the holidays:

  • Be Flexible
  • Know Your Airport
  • Be Early, or Late
  • Pack Extra but Travel Light
  • Take Shortcuts and Remember
  • Empathy, Empathy, Empathy!

A flexible attitude does a few things. First, it allows us to pause and remember that there is a backup plan in place. Next, focusing on the good allows us to better accept the change and roll with it. In the end, being flexible is the secret to keeping a jovial attitude and keeping everyone around you, including the little ones, worry-free.

Knowing your airport is another travel secret because it’s one that most people rarely consider. Previewing parking options will get you closest to your airline and understanding the terminal layout to know where check-in and gate assignments are will save a lot of headaches. JFK airport long-term parking will save you money, and the shuttle service will always get you directly to your destination.

Be early, or late, because others won’t be. Traveling in a smaller crowd means dealing with fewer obstacles. Moreover, it will grant you that envelope of time you need to take a breath and think about what comes next.

Travel light to avoid checking baggage when possible. You can pack smart and still bring all of the extras you’ll need like snacks (think granola, crackers, cheese sticks), portable entertainment, apparel that performs dual-purpose (shawl/throw/large scarf for extra comfort and warmth), and always a set of earplugs. These thoughtful, last-minute gifts can be purchased once you arrive at your destination so that you don’t have to carry the baggage along. Further, you simply cannot travel with pre-wrapped gifts because they won’t pass through security.

In-flight entertainment means a pen or pencil for kids to doodle with, a book or magazine for them to look over, and always a set of headphones to plug into in-flight entertainment once the plane is airborne. Be sure to bring adapters and chargers for any devices coming along on the trip.

Remember to take advantage of shortcuts like pre-printing boarding passes and downloading your airline’s app onto everyone’s smartphones. Heading straight to the security point will save you at least a half an hour.

Finally, remember empathy and always make the extra effort to treat staff and fellow travelers with kindness. Everyone is working hard to get through the process and make the most out of a hectic situation.

Smarter travel is your best bet for arriving at your destination well rested, looking your best, and ready to spend bountiful hours enjoying your family. The time will fly by quickly. You’ll be so thankful that you were able to make the most of every holiday moment together.