While the holiday season is meant to be relaxing—time off work, with the family, the kids, the in-laws, it is rarely the Hallmark fantasy sold by commercials. The holidays are rough and draining, both on emotions and on budgets. First on the list: Thanksgiving, kicking off the season with enough tryptophan to knock anyone out.

If Traveling by Plane

Try to fit everything into a carry-on. A Thanksgiving weekend should be able to fit into one suitcase. You don’t need the extra stress of lost bags.

Print your boarding pass beforehand.

Make car reservations or pick-up arrangements well ahead of time. The airports are crazy this time of year.  There are many car service options that are just as cheap as cabs, and save you the hassle of the line. A sign with your name on it is just what you deserve.

If Driving

Make sure you have snacks and a loaded iPod before you head that 400 miles to grandma’s house.

If Hosting

There can never be too many lists. Grocery lists. Guest lists. Order of food prep list. And don’t be afraid to ask for help.

If Hanging with the In-laws:

People love to talk about themselves. If you’re uncomfortable, grab a drink and ask Grandpa Hal a million questions. Chances are he’s got a ton of stories (and interesting ones at that) to share.

Offer to help. Busy hands make a good guest.  That gravy isn’t going to make itself.

Across the Board and All States

And remember. You are there to have fun, so loosen up. So what if your mother-in-law likes to criticize the amount of pie on your plate. Thanksgiving is about giving thanks, and practice gratitude that you are fortunate to celebrate with loved one.

Keep your sense of humor. It’s the best defense.

-Arianna Schioldager

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