It's the most wonderful time of the year...except for the traffic. In East Texas, something happens the day after Thanksgiving and suddenly it feels like there are four times as many cars on the road as usual. By mid-December just the thought of driving on Broadway in South Tyler makes you develop a nervous twitch. Here are a few tips for making it through without going completely nuts.

Allow Extra Time

Be realistic before you set out. During the rest of the year, you might be able to zip in and out of Wal-Mart or park close to The Village at Cumberland Park stores. That's just not going to happen right now.

Traffic backs up at almost every stoplight. Put in your favorite Christmas music and sing along. Wear comfortable clothes. Accept that it's going to take a while instead of adding to your stress level by trying to hurry.

Pack Light, Plan Ahead

Before you leave home, think through all the stops you have to make. Map out the most expedient way to get things done. If you normally make stops to pick up drinks and snacks, realize the drive-through is going to be backed up like everything else. Packing what you need is a way to shave off a few minutes spent idling.

Spend a little extra time on your shopping lists to make sure you get everything in one trip and don't have to double back for something you forgot.

Teach Little Passengers Holiday Courtesy

It's especially tough if you have to do your holiday shopping with little ones. They have short attention spans, small bladders and too much energy to sit still for long.

Kids don't automatically recognize holiday traffic is stressful. Talk to them before you set out about what you need from them in the car. Address the following:

  • Kindness to others -- The holidays are a time for putting others above yourself. When it takes a long time to get through every stop light, if siblings are arguing in the back seat it will get on your last nerve. Stress helping others enjoy the holidays by being kind, not rude.
  • Quiet voices -- The car is a confined space. Encourage children to use their indoor voices the entire time.
  • The four-second rule -- This one is for parents and children alike. Encourage each other when you feel yourself getting frustrated to take four seconds to breathe deeply.

Take Care of Yourself

One of the best ways to deal with holiday stress is to make sure you feel good physically and mentally. The day before you head out to accomplish the bulk of your holiday shopping, go to bed early. Stay hydrated and eat healthy foods, not just holiday cookies.

If stores aren't far from each other, walk between them instead of moving your car. The physical activity will burn calories, not gas. Schedule a massage to unwind when you're through so you can look forward to it when that stoplight turns red for the fourth time.

What about you? How do you make it through the holiday season traffic? Share your suggestions in the comments.