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Holiday Travel Survival Guide - Part III of III - Arrival

Some people don't have the same trek as those of us with family far away, but the holidays may still involve a lot of people in the same place. Perhaps you're the one everyone is visiting (I hope you have more than one bathroom). If travel, long or short, is part of your holiday plans, here are a few ways you can keep sane until normalcy returns.

Miscellaneous but Critical Tips

The key to surviving the 'family time' in any holiday is giving yourself some alone time. There are several ways to achieve the necessary space, even if you're sharing the old bunk beds with eight other people.

Walk the dog, claim you're starting on resolutions early and go on regular jogs (if you're in Nunavut or Thunder Bay, you may want to consider a gym), just get out of the house. You need to be able to hear yourself think, so last minute shopping at a crowded mall doesn't help. Always have an escape route planned (if, for example, the relatives want to hear more about what it is that you do, exactly, in the big city).

Getting out and walking also helps with the tendency to numb the pain with butter tarts and gingerbread. Family get-togethers are so often held together with food, which is great (I love mince pies), but too much will just mean not fitting into that ensemble you chose for New Year's. Bring your 'big' pants and enjoy the feast, just remember to move yourself, too.

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If you aren't the outdoorsy type (or it's -40), bring a book - a nice long one. I picked up the epic The Crimson Petal and the White by Michael Faber - for a mere 1$ at the City Hall Library - they have a little sale table in the corner, genius. I might not finish it, but if all the baking and tree-trimming starts to overwhelm, I can find a corner somewhere and escape to the Santa-free world of an angry Victorian prostitute.

Going home for the holidays is also frequently an opportunity to catch up with your old friends from school. Consider facing the mall with them for last minute shopping - you won't be aimlessly stirring a cup of coffee and trying to think of questions about their job/spouse/car but rather bonding over the whole mania of the season.

Your friends may also invite you to a holiday party, so it's important to be prepared to face all of those mutual acquaintances from way back when. Don't overdo yourself hoping to see that old crush, that's a fast way to be disappointed. Wear cute and comfortable clothes, bring a plate of biscuits, and remind yourself that you don't need their approval. Instead, think about how glad you are that you didn't stay and turn into that person who brings the ball of cheese.

You guys have already learned not to make faces at gifts of dubious quality (wow, granny panties, thanks Uncle George) - or give them (is your witty gag gift really all that funny?).You've probably already gotten over the guilt of not sending thank you notes (which you should send, by the way. Write them when you're looking for something to do on Boxing Day). But do you remember to help clean up? Be a good guest and help the host put everything in Tupperware, the garbage, or the dishwasher. And don't just watch while the women do it, or I will find you and give you a lecture to make Gloria Steinham proud.

Most importantly, embrace the treacle-y, sing-a-long-y, everyone-in-matching-sweaters ridiculousness of it all and focus on why you enjoyed the holidays so much as a kid. Especially if there are kids about. Don't spoil it by being too cool - you're not sixteen anymore.

And when you finally return chez-vous - Give yourself a day to recover, before you get back to work. Trust me, you'll need the down time, jet-lag or not.


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