The holidays are a mess. If you’re looking to travel during the holiday season, you’re condemned to frustration. The mall is crowded. The freeway is crowded. The airport is crowded. All so you can get to that holiday destination and sit around a crowded table for family dinner. Bah, humbug! Not only that but traveling can be rough on the body. Whether you are traveling alone on business or on your way to a sunny resort with your family, long hours in a car or an airplane can leave you stressed, tired, stiff and sore. “Prolonged sitting can wreak havoc on your body,” says Dr. Scott Bautch, a member of the American Chiropractic Association’s (ACA) Council on Occupational Health. “Even if you travel in the most comfortable car or opt to fly first class, certain pressures and forces from awkward positions can result in restricted blood flow. One of the biggest insults to your system from prolonged sitting is the buildup of pressure in the blood vessels in your lower legs. Contracting and relaxing the muscles helps the blood flow properly.” That being said, here are some tips to help you avoid the pains of traveling whether you’re on plane, train or in the car:
In the Air
You’re not Santa Claus, so if there’s an airport involved, there’s no need for you to lug your bags around like you’ve got rounds to make and cookies to eat. Someone else is doing the driving, so your focus should be on catching your plane. Check your bags. Let someone else do the heavy lifting. And keep your carry-ons light. Think of it this way: the lighter your load, the easier the plane will get off the ground. If your flight is a long one, don’t be afraid to get up and stretch. Walk down the aisle to stretch your legs and spread some holiday cheer while restoring the circulation in your legs and arms. While sitting in those super comfy coach seats, you can also massage your legs or prop your feet on a bag in order to change positions. And if you want to exercise, you can rock your feet back and forth from heel to toe. Don’t forget about scrunching the toes and then releasing to let go of stress. Oh, wear comfortable shoes. The runway is for planes, not models; comfort is more important than fashion. On the Open Road
Could there be a more stressful activity than driving the crowded freeways during the holidays? Unless you’ve got a shiny red nose and you’re leading a sleigh of reindeer in the fog, you totally have high score on the stress-o-meter. First off, if you feel yourself getting sleepy or tired, nothing is worth the risk of not pulling over and resting, having a refreshment to wake you, or just calling it a night. Make sure that whoever is doing the driving is alert, paying attention and, of course, always looking for ways to escape trouble when the other guy screws up. To make yourself more comfortable and reduce the chance of suffering -- sorry, nothing we can do about Uncle Bob’s political ramblings or Aunt Martha’s fruit cake that make everyone suffer -- you should probably use some sort of back support. You can roll up a towel and place it behind your lower back, which will also serve you well when you spill coffee after hitting that pothole that your tax dollars are paying to not fix. Although nothing should come at the expense of attention to the road, that doesn’t mean you can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. In this case, drive and roll your shoulders forward and backward to reduce the stress in them, or tightening and releasing the calf and thigh muscles. If you’ve got cruise control, you really are living the high life. With Your Kiddos
We’re not living in the good old days when you threw your kids into the bed of a pickup truck and headed down the road. And though Santa may not need a seat belt, your kids (and you) most certainly do. Children 4 and under, or those weighing under 40 pounds, must use car seats. Make sure they are properly secured and in the back seat. Car seats for infants should face the rear of the car. Keep some baby wipes handy because you’re nuts if you don’t. If the kids will be with you in an airport, writing your name and phone number on their arm gives you a fighting chance of getting them back should you become separated. Dressing them in a neon orange or other color shirt can make them easy to spot in a crowd if they wander off. If they’re carrying backpacks, make sure the total weight is 10 percent or less than their body weight and the pack has wide (two inches) padded double straps to distribute the load; this is a good idea for adults, too. Take breaks as often as you can with children; it will reduce the chances you’ll say, “Don’t make me come back there.” You can also play the most important card you have all year: Remind them Santa only delivers to nice little boys and girls, you might get some positive traction for a few weeks.