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Staying sane during the holiday travel season

Dec 27, 2011, 6 a.m.

The holidays are about gift-giving, trimming the tree, family dinners and charity. Unfortunately, they're also about traveling. And whether you're traveling by plane or car, holiday traffic jams can cause even the most stoic travelers to lose hold of their sanity.

Fortunately, there are ways to lessen the stress of holiday travel. By following some simple family holiday ideas, you can increase the odds of staying sane all the way through Jan. 2.

The first key is to leave yourself plenty of time to reach your destination before the holiday. You can avoid the worst traffic jams or airport delays by traveling several days before Christmas. This way, you'll be on the highways or in the airports when other travelers are still wrapping their presents and decorating their trees.

It might also be less costly to travel during these times. You can turn your holiday travel in to a mini family vacation if you leave early enough in December. You might even be fortunate enough to find family vacation deals that aren't available as you get nearer the big holiday.

If you can't leave early, make sure you're prepared, both physically and mentally, for the delays that you'll inevitably face. If you're traveling with children, bring plenty of games, toys, snacks and books to occupy them, whether they're stuck with the rest of the family in highway traffic or waiting in long lines at the airport.

If you're driving this holiday season, don't forget the power of road games. Traffic jams aren't quite as annoying if you and your family members are all trying to see who can spot an object that begins with the letter "Y" first. A quick game of "I Spy" can also make that time spent waiting to check in the family's luggage seem less stressful.

And remember that the holidays are a time to spend with family members. If you're stuck in a crowded airport, bumped from a flight or fighting your way through a traffic jam, just think how much more time you and your loved ones will get to spend in each other's company. Sometimes simply having the right attitude can make all the hassles of holiday traveling seem silly rather than agonizing.

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