I love traveling, but I am not a fan of airports, planes or anything to do with flying. I view the whole process of getting from point A to point B as an annoying but necessary evil. With long lines at security, hours of waiting for delayed flights, cramped quarters and continual cutbacks on comforts like leg room and in flight entertainment… flying is a real pain!
While I’m grateful for the fact that modern air travel has opened up the world to everyday travelers like me, I find the experience uncomfortable and stressful overall. Can you relate?
Today I want to share my best strategies for keeping your sanity and staying as comfortable as possible all the way from check in to baggage claim.
Let’s jump right in shall we?
Plan For Success
// It’s best to go into your travel days with the assumption that things won’t go to plan. If everything goes perfectly smoothly consider it a bonus, but it’s easier to take things in stride if your expectation is that delays are part of the game.
// Avoid tight layover times whenever possible. I prefer to have at least a few hours between the scheduled landing of one flight and the take off of the next. When you’re booking your flights pay close attention to this, sometimes websites will give you ticket combinations with only 45 minutes between flights! That’s just crazy! Even if your first flight lands on schedule you have precious little time to deplane and get to your next gate which may be in a completely different terminal. Everybody’s different but I don’t think the stress is worth it! I’ll take a longer layover every time, even if it means spending a couple hours hanging out in the connecting airport.
// Get to the airport early. Give yourself lots of time to get your bag checked and to go through security. Bonus points if you travel with just a carry on and can skip lining up for baggage check. I always plan to be at the airport 3 hours early for international flights and 2 hours early for domestic.
// Get your check in and boarding passes dealt with before heading to the airport. Whether you print your boarding pass or scan from your phone is up to you, just don’t wait until you get to the airport to deal with it.
// Keep all your boarding passes, baggage tickets, passport, identification, itinerary, travel insurance, contact #’s etc. and a pen in one spot. Email copies of your travel documents to yourself and keep a copy on your phone but DON’T rely on digital storage exclusively for your itinerary and contact numbers. Have a hard copy of everything you need on you and stash photocopies of your important travel documents separately from the originals.
// Keep your documents organized! I don’t advocate that you buy a lot of travel specific gear, but some things just make life easier. A proper documents case that is sturdy, zippered and has enough room for everything you need is a wise investment if you travel regularly. Make sure you buy a quality one you love so it will last.
// I don’t mean you have to be frumpy, but definitely dress in comfortable clothes that fit well. My go to travel day outfit is a pair of tights and a loose fitting T-shirt with my favourite long sleeve chambray shirt. Wear a long sleeve layer even when it’s hot out because airplanes are always on the chilly side. A lightweight scarf can be a worthwhile, easy to pack addition and it can double as a blanket too!
// Wear comfortable shoes that you can move fast in! The last thing you need is flying flip flops when you’re in the middle of a mad dash across the airport trying to make your connecting flight. Also remember that they should be easy enough to get on and off when you have to go through security. Keep it practical!
Always Carry the Essentials for Sleep
// Even if you’re not taking the red eye or planning an overnighter in an airport you should still pack a couple basic pieces of sleep-facilitating gear. I have spent the last two Boxing Day nights unexpectedly sleeping in airports because of delayed and missed flights. Carry earplugs, a sleep mask and an inflatable neck pillow just in case. I don’t use them every time I travel, but they’re so lightweight and small it’s worth having them. Trust me, if you end up trying to awkwardly sleep across chairs at an airport gate you’ll be glad to have these small comforts on hand.
The Rest of the Carry On Essentials
// Supplies to stay hydrated – in flight air is usually very dry. I always travel with an aluminum water bottle. You have to take it through security empty, then fill it up on the other side before you board your flight. Also have lip balm and a small bottle of moisturizer (less than 100ml bottle to go through security).
// If you’re checking luggage make sure you still have the basics for an overnight in your carry on. I was delayed overnight in New Jersey with my boyfriend in December. The airline put us up in a hotel for the night and since we had the basics in our carry on bags we didn’t have to deal with getting our checked bag back and then rechecking it in the morning. I always carry a fresh shirt, socks and underwear and a handful of basic toiletries. Don’t go overboard and end up carting around a bunch of stuff ‘just in case’, keep to the basics only!
// If you’re traveling with prescription medications keep them on your person, don’t risk losing them in case your checked bag is lost. Anything valuable like electronics or expensive eye wear should also go in your carry on.
// Snacks! Most airlines no longer offer complementary in flight meals so if you want to eat during the flight it’s either what you bring with you or what you can buy on the plane. What you can get in flight isn’t exactly nutritious and it’s ridiculously overpriced. Pack a few healthy snacks like nut and seed mixes, fresh fruit or veggies, even a nice pasta or quinoa salad. REMEMBER: If you’re traveling internationally you have to declare any food products with you at customs. If you have leftover snacks, especially fresh fruits or any meat products don’t forget to tell customs or you’ll be subject to fines.
// Don’t count on free in flight entertainment! More and more airlines are charging travelers extra to watch movies or TV during your trip. Make sure you pack some basics to keep your brain occupied. I always travel with a notebook and pen, one (long) paperback novel, one or two magazines (not a whole stack) and my tablet. I load up my tablet with my favourite podcasts, eBook’s or books on tape before a trip. I always prefer a physical book to an eBook but it’s just not practical to carry a whole trips worth of reading material any other way.
When Things Go Wrong
Keep Your Cool
// If you travel enough you will run into an issue. It’s inevitable. A bag will get lost or damaged, you’ll miss a flight or end up stuck overnight somewhere… it’s part of the game. Accept that and it’ll be easier for you when something does go wrong.
// Getting worked up, stressed out and upset doesn’t change whatever issue you encounter, it just makes it harder for you as you deal with it. Take a deep breath, stay calm and handle it. It’s just going to be another travel story to add to your collection.
Advocate For Yourself But Don’t Be a Jerk
// It’s easy to get frustrated when issues come up, but it’s never OK to give airline staff a hard time. I see so many travelers vent their frustration on whatever airline staff member happens to be in their line of sight. The front line customer service staff aren’t the cause of the problem. They don’t delay or overbook flights and they’re not responsible for aggravating policies and fees. You’re allowed to advocate for yourself, go ahead and ask for some extra meal vouchers or a hotel voucher when you’re delayed overnight. But always ask nicely! When you’re pleasant to deal with people WANT to help you and go the extra mile to solve the problem. Losing your cool with staff won’t win you any favours.
Take a Breath, It’s Going to be Fine
// Every issue you’re going to run into can be fixed. You will get rebooked on another flight, you will get to your destination, the uncomfortable night sleeping on the floor in the airport will end!
As much as the actual flying part drives me crazy, it’s a necessary evil and well worth it for the opportunity to see new places and have new experiences. It’s just a matter of doing what we can to be as comfortable as possible and keep the stress levels to a minimum.
What about you lovely readers? What do you need to travel with to stay comfortable? Do you have any favourite strategies for reducing your stress levels while traveling? We always love to hear from you!