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Holiday Travel Mayhem – Reducing Stress and Conflict

Preparing for TSA during the holiday season

Preparing for TSA during the holiday season

Many of us are not strangers to conflict that occurs during the holiday season. This is especially true for those of us who travel by plane to visit our family and friends out of town. If you cannot manage your stress and anxiety or take steps to prevent conflict, your holiday travel plans are sure to be negatively affected.  The conflict that appears is not solely based on airport security, delayed or cancelled flights. Your behavior, attitude and approach will influence how the conflict transpires.

Let’s look at an example. Its December 22nd, you and your 2 children arrive at the airport. You will depart from Texas to visit your mother and father in your Maryland hometown. You are going through the checkpoint with the wrapped gifts as the carry-on items. Included in one of the wrapped gifts are 3 bottles of perfume for your mother. In addition, your favorite cranberry sauce and holiday juice are in the bag as well. Security prompts you to stand aside because your liquid items exceed the 3-1-1 policies for carry-ons. You have also been asked to unwrap your gifts. The liquids are not allowed through checkpoint. Therefore, you must get back in line and place them in a check bag or dispose of the items. You are upset and begin to shout and point at security personnel. TSA (Transportation Security Administration) officials ask you to step to the side because your behavior has become inappropriate.

Your reaction to a situation might be a key factor in why the conflict manifested. Did you fail to think before you reacted? Yes! Don’t beat yourself up about it, I am guilty of this as well! Especially during the holiday season, you want everything to flow perfectly. Therefore, one mistake or uncontrollable situation such as a delayed or canceled flight could change your entire mood. It’s okay. Understand that unexpected things happen. The way to lessen the stress and anxiety is to learn how to manage conflict constructively. Think about the things you can control…such as carry-ons and checked luggage to prevent further conflict…here are some tips.

Strategies to reduce stress and prevent conflict from escalating include:

  1.  Step back and think before you react! Your goal is to remain calm and choose how you will respond to the TSA agent’s request so that you can move through the   checkpoint quickly and onto your gate.
  2. Be aware and prepare. Visit the TSA or airport’s website before you begin to pack for a flight as there could be changes in procedures for holiday gifts and food.
  3. Ship Gifts Early. Consider the option to ship the gifts ahead of time. The fewer carry-on items mean that there is less to worry about at the checkpoint or for that matter to worry about having your carry-on not fit in the overhead bins and being forced to check it in at the gate
  4. Arrive early. Give yourself enough time at the airport to deal with  larger crowds,  last minute changes such as he switch of items from carry-on to your checked bag  or flight delays or cancellations due to weather.
  5. Check out TSA’s Blog on their 2013 Holiday Travel Tips Refer to TSA’s website to see which types of foods are allowed through checkpoint.

To learn more strategies for holiday traveling, please visit Helpful Hints for Holiday Travelers and Traveling with Food or Gifts.

Listen to our recent podcast Surviving Holiday Travel .

By Tierra Henry

Graduate Student, University of Baltimore Dispute Resolution Program

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Don’t Let Greed Breed Conflict And Interfere With Your Holiday Cheer

Overwhelmed by gift exchanges.

Overwhelmed by gift exchanges.

Holidays, Holidays, as Andy Williams said “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year” and I’m sure it is for many. Unfortunately, it can be stressful with unrealistically high expectations and unforeseen conflicts ending with nasty arguments, disappointed family members and friends. Gift-giving exchanges among our growing extended family and friends causes some of the most anxiety and frustration. Why? Unmet expectations, values we place on others or ourselves about gift giving, and the need for love and affection that often gets tied to the gift and gift giver.

Have you ever been unsatisfied with your gift? Thought your husband, wife, best friend, sister or someone close to you didn’t spend enough on you?  Were you expecting something different? The hair dryer was not on your “expected” gift list. Could you not afford to give everyone a gift due to the growing size of your family? These unmet expectations create conflict. Hurtful comments are made. You feel the tension, the awkward silence and the anxiety.

The truth is we have all been there in that same position. You are not alone. Every year you tell yourself “I’m going to plan better next time” or “I will stick with a budget” but it never works out. Mentally you are drained and you haven’t prepared yourself for the chaos that will come when your family, best friends or unexpected guests arrive at your home for holiday festivities and gift exchanges.

Imagine, it’s Christmas day at your home and your family is exchanging gifts. Your aunt opens her gift and her facial expression goes from a smile to a face of concern. You ask her if she likes her gift and her reply is “yes”. Later that day you find out she is upset because the gift you got her is entirely too expensive.  You spent way more on her than what she spent on you. Yes, people get upset if they receive a holiday gift that they believe is too “pricey”. In addition to your upset aunt, you also find out that your cousin is saddened because you didn’t get him a gift. Unfortunately, you did not have enough money to buy him a gift.   You believe in spending within your means or budget. Right? That’s exactly right! Your cousin goes off on a tantrum and believes that favoritism within the family is the reason he did not receive a gift, not the fact that you did not have enough money. The conflict begins.

Here are some tips for how you can keep money and gifts from creating family conflict.

  • Create a budget and STICK TO IT! Don’t spend what you can’t afford.
  • Try creative ideas like “Secret Santa”. Decide on minimum and maximum costs. Explain the rules CLEARLY!
  • Be honest. It does not hurt to explain to family and friends why you decided to change the gift giving process.
  • Use Gift Cards.  Relatives and friends can buy whatever they want! Even giving the same gift can eliminate conflict then no one complains about favoritism.
  • Communicate effectively…be open and transparent about your expectations and hopes for the holiday season.
  • Show appreciation for the thought and action behind the gift.

To learn more on preventing conflict around gift giving this season, visit How To Avoid Money Arguments During the Holiday Season and Communication Currents.

Listen to our podcast archives to help you prepare for the holidays.

       How To Manage Financial Conflicts Within Your Family During The Holidays

By Tierra Henry, Graduate Student, University of Baltimore

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