There’s no doubt that 2020 has been a year for the ages. Out of control wildfires, an intense election, a whipsaw economy — and to top it all off, a pandemic. To put it simply, nothing this year has been ordinary, and the end-of-the-year holidays don’t look like they’re going to be exceptions.

If you’re trying to make holiday travel plans during the chaos, here are a few tips and considerations to help you do so safely and successfully.

Do Your Homework Beforehand

First and foremost, make sure to do your homework before you leave. This year, more than ever, it’s essential that you understand what will be expected of you as you move from one location to another. 

In some cases, travel may be fairly simple, such as getting in your car and driving to a relative’s house a state or two away. In other cases, like getting on an airplane, you’re going to want to conduct extra research to ensure you’re aware of the sanitation and health best practices as you fly.

Travel aside, you’re also going to want to be aware of national, state, and local regulations in the areas that you’ll be traveling to. For instance, a state like New York that has been hard hit by the pandemic may have a required two-week quarantine upon arrival — something that could severely affect holiday-length travel plans. Make sure you’re aware of any regulations of this nature before you commit to a trip.

Re-evaluate Traditions

With so much stress and strain involved with travel this year, it’s a good idea to re-evaluate some of your holiday traditions. On the one hand, certain traditions, like putting up a Christmas tree, will likely be fairly normal, with the possible exception of wearing masks and using hand sanitizer when you go out to get the tree itself.

On the other hand, things like Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner may want to be approached with a new mindset. If a parent or sibling typically took on the brunt of the cooking in the past, you may want to consider splitting up responsibilities by making it a potluck event. You can make the theme simple, such as comfort food or casseroles to enable everyone to participate and spread out the added stress of hosting.

Set Expectations

With so many rules, regulations, and other travel factors constantly changing due to the virus, it’s also a good idea to set expectations for both you and your loved ones. If valued traditional travel plans are ultimately axed due to a last-minute shelter-in-place order or travel ban, brainstorm ways to turn those canceled travel plans into a new, treasured holiday memory.

Request a refund of your travel funds and then redirect the cash into an alternative celebration. This can be as simple as an indoor holiday picnic or as elaborate as finding a distant-but-remote alternative travel option, such as camping somewhere warmer or simply packing the car and taking a family road trip.

Plan in Down Time

Holiday traveling is exhausting in any year. This year, in particular, you can plan on feeling beat by the time you unload your luggage and step back inside your front door. 

With that in mind, make sure not to overstuff your holiday travel plans. Don’t work right up until the moment you leave and start up again the day after you get back. Don’t plan trips back to back, either.

Instead, give yourself plenty of time to pack and plan beforehand as well as a legitimate chance to unpack and recuperate once you return. You may feel disappointed that it shortens your overall trip, but once you’re actually traveling, you’ll be glad for the extra breathing room in your schedule.

Have Fun Planning Ahead

Finally, if your typical holiday plans have been mangled by the pandemic, don’t let that ruin your fun. Instead, steer into the skid by actively planning what kind of trip you’ll take on the first post-pandemic holiday that rolls around. 

From the Bahamas or Iceland to a cross-country trip to San Francisco or New York City, there are plenty of exciting places that will be eagerly looking for tourists as soon as it’s safe to travel again. Plot out where your journey will take you now so that you’re ready to hit the ground running as soon as the quarantines lift, the pandemic ends, and life returns to a sense of normalcy.

Planning Travels During a Pandemic

Living through a pandemic can be exhausting. Attending holidays during a pandemic can be a logistical challenge. Traveling anywhere during a pandemic can be a straight-up nightmare — especially if you go into your travels ill-prepared.

However, if you take the time to do your homework, set expectations, plan ahead, create contingency plans, and stay flexible on traditions, you can beat the stress and have a genuinely fun holiday season.