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How to Travel Stress-Free This Memorial Day Weekend



This Memorial Day weekend, 43.8 million travelers are expected to hit the road to kick off the summer season.

Whether you’re staying local or spending the weekend out of town, be prepared for crowds. “It’s going to be busy, no matter what you do,” says Christina Jelski, a senior editor with Northstar Travel Group’s Travel Weekly. “Leave early, give yourself plenty of wiggle room, and go in with the expectation that it’s going to be crowded and delays [might] happen.”

Ahead of the busy weekend, TIME spoke to experts who shared their tips on how to make the most of the holiday no matter where you are.  

Think ahead

A little planning can go a long way when it comes to buying supplies for a weekend barbeque or booking passes for national parks— taking the time to get what you need ahead of the long weekend can save you a headache down the line. 

“Everyone talks about the mad rush at the airport and on the roads, but there’s also a mad rush at the grocery stores,” says Erika Richter, VP of Communications & Marketing at the American Society of Travel Advisors. 

The same goes for your travel itinerary. Experts recommend creating a backup plan in case there are delays or cancellations. “If your flight’s delayed or canceled because during the holidays, you can’t easily grab another flight,” says Karen Schaler, the founder of Travel Therapy. She recommends looking into alternative travel routes or backup flights in advance. “Do not count on the airlines to find you something over the holidays. If your flight is canceled, often [automatic booking] will rebook you for after the holidays,” she says.

Be creative with your travel plans

To beat the traffic, keep an eye out for destinations you can visit by train, especially if you live in the Northeast. “You could easily plan a quick weekend getaway by relying primarily on train service if you live somewhere that is well connected by train lines,” says Jelski, who notes that some hotels and resorts even provide shuttle or car service to pick you up from the station. 

It also helps to be open minded about where you plan to go—especially if you’re planning a last minute trip. “If you’re looking to go last minute somewhere for the holidays, you’re not going to pick the top 20 places that come to mind,” says Schaler. “If it came to your mind, it’s going to come to somebody else’s.”

Find ways to keep yourself entertained

Despite the excitement travel brings, a delayed flight or traffic jam can easily dampen the mood. To stave off boredom, Richter recommends packing games— like a pair of dice or a deck of cards—to pass the time while traveling. You can also create a shared playlist with your family or friends to listen to during your trip.“There’s something for everybody—and no one’s fighting over the music,” she says. 

Don’t forget to pack a portable charger. “If you’re delayed or if you’re just trying to recharge and you can’t find one, you’re going to want to have your own,” says Schaler. 

Look around your neighborhood

You don’t have to travel far to have a good time, experts say. Many towns host free holiday parades, festivals, and concerts that help support the community. If you have kids, something as simple as making s’mores or bringing out glow sticks after dark can contribute to a fun weekend. “Even if you’re not going anywhere, I would still think about what kind of memories you want to create,” says Richter.

It helps to ground a staycation in a specific theme, says Schaler, whether that be an outdoor day hiking local trails or a global food crawl through different cuisines. If you do decide to take a staycation, create boundaries—and stick to them. “Make sure you go all in,” Schaler says. “You can’t be answering phone calls and doing a little work and then say, ‘This is my spa day.’”

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