Keep calm and pack your carry-on: A guide to navigating summer travel

June 28, 2023

Summer vacation is often the most anticipated break of the year, with thousands of Manitobans taking time off to relax on scenic beaches or explore bustling cities.  

This summer is gearing up to be an exceptionally busy travel season. With pandemic restrictions lifted throughout most of the world, many people are finally taking those long-awaited adventures.  

But sometimes a trip just doesn’t go as expected – cancelled or delayed flights, overcrowded areas and busy roads can create stress and anxiety for even the most experienced traveler.  

While planning and preparing for any scenario can make a big difference, there are a few strategies you can try to make any travel situation a good one.  

Reflect and research

Before you begin to plan your trip, take the time to reflect on what type of traveller you are. Carmel Watson, marriage and family therapist and organizational assistance specialist for the Manitoba Blue Cross Employee Assistance Program, suggests asking yourself, “Am I someone who likes to have everything organized and planned out ahead of time? Or am I someone who thrives on the adventure and prefers to make decisions in the moment?”  

If we go against our natural preferences, that is when we can experience stress.

The preferences of your travel companion, if you have one, are also an important consideration. 

“Talk openly with those you are travelling with so there is some understanding and compassion around potential differences,” Watson says.

Whether you are planning out every minute or going with the flow, it is always a good idea to research the places you want to visit.  

“Make sure you are aware of the hours of operation, peak times and any restrictions they might have,” Watson says. “This will allow you to decide if you want to visit when it’s less busy if you don’t like crowds or if there are any special events you might want to attend.”

Stress-free strategies

As tempting as it is to fill your schedule with activities, it is essential to build in some downtime.

Watson importantly reminds us, “Vacations can be such a nice break away from our usual routines. However, sometimes we over-schedule ourselves and end up returning in a more stressed state. Make sure you take an overall look at your vacation schedule and create some space where you have nothing planned so you can take a nap, read a book or soak in the hot tub. These things will allow you to really relax and be in the moment.”

Delays and cancellations are common sources of frustration and stress. When you are stuck waiting hours in an airport, a distraction can certainly help. Watson suggests bringing a book or downloading a movie, some music, or a podcast series you’ve been wanting to enjoy. It may sound simple, but tuning into entertainment can help block out uneasy feelings and pass the time quickly.

Making the most of a family vacation

There’s nothing quite like going on a family vacation and watching your children excitedly experience something new. But while travelling with kids can be both rewarding and memorable, it can also be extremely challenging. Preparation and planning can go a long way in making the family vacation go smoothly.

Watson offers simple advice:

  • Expect that things will take longer: Get up earlier, arrive to the airport earlier and expect that there will be some challenges, as kids often don’t have that sense of urgency or recognize that most things in life occur at a specific time. If you leave yourself some extra time, you are less likely to get frustrated or stressed with your loved ones.
  • Snacks: Be prepared to have plenty of snacks, including healthy options and some special treats. A hungry kid (or adult for that matter) can quickly change the energy of the day from a fun time to complete misery for everyone. Keep granola bars or other snacks that you know your kids enjoy in your bag and don’t forget about keeping everyone hydrated as well. When we’re dehydrated, which can easily happen when we’re travelling, we’re prone to headaches, mood swings and potential fatigue. 
  • Set aside some extra money for a special treat: Be prepared for your kids to ask you at every gas station, at every airport, or store you go into for something from the gift shop. They are excited about this trip too and can easily find fun and new things they want. Start your trip by setting limits on this. Some families provide a dollar amount for their kids and let them choose how they spend it, while others set limits such as only allowing them to choose one item.  
  • Bring electronics, gadgets, games, and toys: Be prepared for all circumstances and know the needs of your kids. What items will help keep them occupied on a long road trip, long flight or while waiting for the next leg of the journey? Bring both a comfort item (such as a stuffed animal) and something new (colouring book, journal, toy) to allow them to choose what they need depending on their mood.
  • Wipes: You can’t go wrong with throwing a package of wipes into your bag. You never know what you’re going to come across or what your kids are going to touch that might require a quick wipe of the hands or face.
  • Take a deep breath: Travelling with kids can be quite challenging and there’s a lot to remember and consider. Keep in mind that everyone in the family has different needs and reactions to travelling. Kids are simply little humans who also have preferences and reactions – they just might not be able to express them or recognize them quite yet. Your role as a parent is to stay grounded, connect with your kids and focus on creating memories as you embark on these adventures with your family.            

Be prepared for anything

One of the best ways to put your mind at ease while on vacation anywhere out of province is to purchase travel coverage. It’s as essential as your passport and can protect you and your family from unexpected challenges during your trip. In addition to preventing large medical bills when a potential emergency arises, travel coverage may also protect you from smaller disruptions such as lost baggage or flight cancellations.  

Not all packages are equal and depending on what kind of trip you’re taking, the coverage you’ll need will vary. And it is extremely important to read your policy to know what exactly is covered and what isn’t. Learn more about Manitoba Blue Cross travel plans.

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