Holiday Survival Guide

The Keys to a
Stress-Free Holiday Trip

Clever hacks and expert advice to arrive looking and feeling your best

Kevin McCallister in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

The holidays with family and friends are full of good times, indulgent food, gifts and plenty of boozy drinks. And we could all use a break after what's felt like a long, wild year. But before you get to the good stuff, there's still one hurdle that most of us have to tackle: actually getting to wherever "home" is located. And no matter how often you travel, these holiday journeys can take a lot out of you. Here's how to show up looking (and feeling) great.


Breeze Through Security

Airport security bin
Airport security bin

The key is eliminating time at the X-ray machine. Before you get into line, stash your phone, keys, watch and belt in a plastic bag in your carry-on (or in an exterior pocket). After showing your ID, place it back in your wallet and put it in the bag as well. Then place your bag on the belt first, followed by your shoes, toiletries and computer. Your bag will come out first—making it easier to refill on the other side.

Yourself the Gift of Space (and Time)

Airline premium economy
Airline premium economy

Your holiday travel schedule is often hectic and usually means you're flying at the worst possible times, so treat yourself in order to make the process a little less hellish. Upgrade your ticket to "premium economy" or "comfort plus," available on most major carriers. These are often the last tickets to go, so there's likely seats still available. For a nominal fee, you get more legroom and perks like dedicated overhead bin space, early boarding and with some carriers, priority security access (no waiting in lines!) and free alcohol (two drinks and this just paid for itself). Trust us, you'll arrive feeling so much better.

A Smarter Way to Pack

TravelWise Five-Piece Packing Cube Set

packing cube set,
$22.95 by TravelWise

The best way to pack as much as possible while keeping your suitcase organized, these lightweight nylon cubes will help you compress bulkier items. Efficiently roll up puffy jackets, thick sweaters or pants and tuck them into a compact cube. Use each cube for a different clothing type (sweaters, underwear, pants) and peek through the mesh top to quickly identify what's in each bag.

TravelWise Five-Piece Packing Cube Set

Five-piece packing cube set,
$22.95 by TravelWise


(Don't Pack) Your Gifts

While the TSA doesn't technically prohibit wrapped gifts, they do warn that "if your wrapped gift triggers an alarm, the gift might need to be unwrapped for TSA officers to resolve the alarm." For this reason and to save you from having to lug a bunch of presents around for the better part of a day, we suggest shipping your gifts ahead of your arrival. This will allow you to wrap all your gifts at home and then simply unpack them at your final destination.

Save a Day
for Yourself

Even for those lucky enough to get along swimmingly with family, a holiday visit can be exhausting and draining. Make sure you get a day to decompress. Before you head back to the office, schedule a day at home to stock up your fridge, catch up on laundry, hit the gym (or maybe more realistically, binge your favorite show) or do absolutely nothing at all. You'll feel much more rested, recharged and ready for the New Year than if you jumped right back into work.

Winter Dopp Kit Staples

Add these to your standard grooming kit to look great the whole trip.

Ursa Major Essential Face Wipes

We don't travel anywhere without these refreshing wipes, which can be used to revive a tired face, sub in for aftershave or, in a pinch, wipe down a plane's armrest and tray table.

Essential face wipes,
$24 (for 20) by Ursa Major

Jao Coiffette Multipurpose Balm

This handy multi-use balm can be used as a moisturizer for dry patches of skin, rough hands, dry cuticles and even refresh hat hair (as well as plane pillow hair).

Coiffette multipurpose balm,
$20 by Jao

Port Products Balancing Daily Moisturizer

Winter's hard enough on your skin, without the added dryness of recycled airplane air. This potent blend of ginger and bamboo not only hydrates and conditions skin but also fights blemishes and shine while calming irritation and redness.

Balancing daily moisturizer,
$36 by Port Products

Fulton & Roark Shackleford Solid Cologne

You don't want to smell like you've been on a plane, but you also don't want to be spritzing your seat mate with cologne inside a tight cabin or be the guy misting himself down in the airport bathroom. This solid fragrance allows you to reapply discreetly and is much easier to pack too.

Shackleford solid cologne,
$42 / $34.98 by Fulton & Roark


Hotel key

Many people feel like they have to stay with family when they visit family. But you don't. Consider booking a room at a nearby hotel or Airbnb—no need to feel guilty. You'll be able to spend quality time but lessen the chances you'll get on each other's nerves. Just keep your reasoning short (sell it as you have work commitments or are looking to treat yourself and/or significant other).

NOTE: Items featured in this story are independently selected by the editorial team. Purchasing via our links may earn Valet. a portion of the sale, which helps fund our editorial mission.

More from the
Holiday Survival Guide

The Valet. Email
The Valet. Email

Get Valet. in Your Inbox

Smart reads, expert tips, exclusive sale alerts and more. You won't be disappointed.

Get Valet.
in Your Inbox

Smart reads, expert tips, exclusive sale alerts
and more. You won't be disappointed.