Total Therapy Blog

Holiday Travel Tips

Holiday Travel Conditions Total Therapy Physiotherapy Burnaby Vancouver

Every Christmas holiday, millions of Canadians hit the roads and/or skies. Whether it’s piling everyone into the family car to visit the relatives, or hopping a plane for sunnier climates, travelling can take a toll on your body. Don’t let travel take the happy out of your holidays. Here are some quick and easy tips on how you can enjoy a smooth trip from A to B.

Allow for ample time.

Nothing says stress like running late. Make life easy for yourself and plan to arrive early at your destination. That way, even if you’re later getting out of the house than you planned and traffic is bad, you’ll still get there with time to spare (or at least on time). If you’re flying, check online to see what the recommended arrival times are for your flight. Keep in mind, recommended check-in times may vary between cities (some airports have high traveller volume, so they recommend you arrive a little earlier) even when flying domestically.

Breathe deep.

Breathing Exercise Total Therapy Physiotherapy Burnaby VancouverIf the road conditions or airport frenzy is starting to get to you, remember to breathe. During periods of stress, we tend to breathe shallowly and apically (with the shoulders shrugging up). This causes carbon dioxide to build up in the body, heightening our sense of pain and creating a sensation of anxiety or distress, which reinforces the shallow breathing. To interrupt this cycle, concentrate on taking in a deep breath. Inhale for a count of 5, and exhale slowly for a count of 5. As you exhale, let the muscles of the face and body relax. Repeat a few times as needed.

Try lavender oil.

If you’re a nervous flyer, try putting a drop of lavender oil on a handkerchief or piece of cloth. Lavender oil has a relaxing and calming effect for many people. Try it at home first to see if you like it. Be courteous to your seatmates, though, and don’t overdo the oil. A couple small drops are more than enough.

Wash your hands and don’t touch your face.

Travelling, especially on airplanes, is a great way to expose yourself to thousands of strange germs. The best way to avoid getting sick is to wash your hands and avoid touching your face. Be particularly aware of rubbing your eyes or eating prior to cleaning your hands. Bring a small bottle of antiseptic lotion with you on your travels to keep your hands clean. Or, if you’re not the hand sanitizer type, try baby wipes. They’re usually gentle enough on the skin that you can use them often, and still do the trick.

Drink lots of water.

Travelling is a great way to get dehydrated – especially on planes or dry environments (e.g. in a car with the dehumidifier going). Dehydration can cause fatigue, headaches, lack of concentration, and dry skin/eyes, to name a few. Drinking water is the best way to avoid dehydration. In the car, bring a water bottle along for the ride. If you’re on a plane, make it a point to have water each time the flight attendants come around. Ask for two cups – most airlines have no problem handing out two drinks at a time. Steer clear of dehydrating fluids like coffee or tea, and sugar-loaded ones like soft drinks or juices. If your kids won’t go for water, try giving them diluted juice to decrease the sugar content.

Reach for the sky.

Sky Reach Total Therapy Physiotherapy Burnaby VancouverAll that time in sitting in a seat can be tough on your back. Loading the back (e.g. holding it in a flexed position e.g. sitting) in a particular direction for extended periods of time can result in trauma to the tissues. If you spend hours sitting, you need to intersperse that with periods of doing the opposite – e.g. standing sky-reach stretch – to allow the stress built up in the back to dissipate. If you’re driving, take a quick time-out at the gas station or rest stop. If you’re on a plane, stand up in the aisle. Try performing a sky stretch to release the tension in your back: standing tall, raise your arms over your head and reach up for the sky. Inhale deeply, feeling your spine lengthen. Breathe out and release your arms. Do NOT bend backwards.


Sitting for prolonged periods of time can result in blood and fluid pooling in your lower limbs. This can result in swelling around the calves and ankles, and in some people can lead to blood clots (a life-threatening condition). To keep things circulating, fidget. Tap your foot, raise your heels, extend your legs – shift around. If you can, stand up for short periods of time. On a plane, try to book an aisle seat so you can go for short walks during the flight. To keep things moving in your upper body, try some shoulder rolls or some gentle yes/no/maybe movements with your head (do NOT do the full neck rolls – this can lead to microtears in the neck’s tissues). Even small movements can help!

By following these quick tips, you can minimize the hassle of travel and maximize the fun you’ll have when you get to wherever you’re going. Have a safe trip, and happy travels!


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