Illustration by Justin Cross

Like dentist visits, oil changes and annual reviews at work, holiday travel is an unavoidable trial of life, just sitting there waiting to crush whatever semblance of joy remains inside of you.

It’s either hit the road for the holidays or become the family pariah for staying home and binge-watching shows by yourself (even though I think we all know which is more enjoyable). Still, there are some ways you can make your obligatory trip home for the holidays suck less. Here are some of them.

Catch Up On Your “Ear Reading” 

Who has time to pick up a book anyway? When you’re facing a long drive, let your ears do the reading by loading up your phone with audiobooks or podcasts. You may learn something, better yourself as a human being, or at least glean some tidbits you can pompously drop at parties. Even if you don’t, you won’t have to suffer through AM country radio. Websites such as Open Culture give you access to a library of free, legal downloads that you can listen to on your phone, laptop or tablet. If you’re driving, avoid the distraction of headphones by listening through your car speakers via bluetooth or an auxiliary cable. And to avoid fiddling with your device while behind the wheel, enable the Do Not Disturb While Driving feature.

With any luck, you may enjoy making travel productive, and maybe even keep up the momentum on your daily commute once you return.

Keep Track Of Your Keys

The only thing worse than slogging off on trips you don’t want to take is losing something important like your keys due to the change in routine. Tile can help you with that. Tile’s Bluetooth trackers help you track down your precious stuff when it goes missing in your Aunt Jane’s house. Simply download the Tile app to your phone to activate your Tile. Once you’re set up, you’ll never have to wonder where your keys ran off to.

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Now you’re done with randomly overturning couch cushions, retracing your steps, or ripping your pants open while crouching down to peek underneath beds or sofas again. Just use your phone to ring your Tile and listen for Tile’s chirp to guide you to your precious stuff.

Be An Airport Hero

Airports during holidays are pits of desperation, with inevitable flight delays turning the mobs into bitter scavengers scrapping over everything from spots in boarding lines to precious electrical outlets. Take advantage of that insanity by planning in advance. Pack a little power strip in your carry-on, then whip it out to the applause of phone-power-hungry people around you.

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In the time you’re waiting for your flight to take off, it’s a good idea to check out your airline’s app to see if prices have dropped. Sometimes airlines will cut fares of underbooked flights at the last minute in hopes of filling seats, and if you manage to catch one of those drops you can cash in for a refund or credit for future trips. It never hurts to walk up to the counter to sweet talk the attendant and see if any discount upgrades or boarding positions are available.

And whatever you do, before you go to the airport, make sure you slip a Tile Slim into your luggage so there’s not even a chance you’ll lose it. Aunt Jane’s going to be peeved if you don’t show up with her favorite fruitcake.

Make It Right In-Flight

Before you head to the airport, scope out eBay and Craigslist for deals on drink coupons, which teetotalers tend to unload for pennies on the dollar. There’s nothing like an in-flight drink or two to help ease your mind as you take to the skies.

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Once you’ve finally taken off, your focus can shift to maximizing your comfort so the sentence you serve buckled into your tiny airborne prison soars rather than gets stuck on the tarmac. If you’re stuck in a middle seat or are seated in front of a crying, kicking tyke, ask a flight attendant to let you know if anything else opens up. You could score an upgrade to a more expensive seat for free just because you were bold enough to ask.

Although it’s tempting to free up space by shoving all your carry-on junk into an overhead bin, keep a smaller bag that will fit underneath the seat in front of you onhand so you can have easy access to snacks, reading material, electronics and hygiene items that will make your flight smoother. You can save some cash and have a tastier flight if you buy some grub in the airport and bring it onboard rather than resort to whatever in-flight gruel the airline doles out.

Leave Your Work Behind

When taking a vacation you don’t want, try turning it into an actual vacation, rather than a stress-inducing “working vacation.” Hop on your email once a day and send off a few “will take a look when I get back from my trip” messages. They’ll not only get you out of work demands that bosses, colleagues and clients are trying to pin on you, they’ll discourage further messages by sticking them with some well-placed guilt. If you find your phone pulling you back in to the grind too often, switch your phone into airplane mode and keep it that way in order to force you to experience real life.

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On the flip side, work demands — or at least ones you feign — can also play to your advantage. Arrange to take a vacation from your vacation by hitting the coffee shop to “take care of a few things” that happen to be well-timed to get you out of whatever annoying commitments you can’t stomach. Even if you spend the whole time playing games on your phone, the break may just preserve your sanity.

How do you make holiday travel suck less? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to check out Tile.com to help make your holiday travel a little easier.

Phil Villarreal is a blogger, author and Twitterer.

This post is a sponsored collaboration between Tile and Studio@Gizmodo.