Another day, another airlines-behaving-badly story. At least that’s how it seems lately, right? People are getting booted from seats they paid for, laptops are being banned on board, and times are all around stressful when it comes to travel.
It’s enough to make even seasoned travelers start to feel anxious about booking a flight. Nerves are already high for people who might already have some travel anxiety about delayed flights or accidently leaving their child’s favorite lovey on the plane.
The truth is, travel is stressful for a lot of people. Although you have a destination you want to get to and that’s why you’re following through, that doesn’t mean you’re not sweating bullets from the time you leave for the airport to the second your feet are back on the ground.
Letting your nerves get the best of you doesn’t do any of us any good, though. Try these tips to make traveling as stress-free as possible.
1. Make a list and check it twice
There’s nothing worse than getting to your seat on the plane only to realize you forgot your sunglasses for your week-long beach trip. At least a week before your trip, start a list. Write down everything you want to bring and everything you need to do before you leave. Put the list somewhere you’ll be sure to see in the days to come. Add to it anytime anything else comes to mind. Go back over your list and check items off as you pack and prepare to leave.
Knowing it’s all written down can make most fliers feel more confident that everything is handled before they leave.
2. Give yourself a buffer
In general, it’s a good idea to get to the airport at least an hour before domestic flights and two hours before international flights. But that average can vary a lot depending on how busy the airport you’re flying out of is. Check individual airline recommendations and consider providing yourself an extra hour on top of that at the airport. The same holds true for train and bus stations.
No one loves hanging out at the airport. But think of it in a different way. There are restaurants, bars, and places to shop. There’s people watching and quiet corners to tuck into and read or play on your computer while you wait. For anyone who’s afraid of missing their flight, arriving early is surely less stressful than rushing to the gate.
3. Prioritize comfort
Bring your own magic bag of tricks. Pack everything in your carry-on bag that might provide you some comfort and distraction on the flight. Snacks, books, music, an iPad, neck pillow — whatever it is you have that might help make the flight a little easier.
Don’t be afraid to dress for comfort, too. No one can relax when they feel like their clothes are digging into them on a long flight. You don’t have to board the plane in your pajamas (though you totally could!) to maintain comfort. Just choose an outfit you won’t mind sitting in for hours on end.
4. Carry a binder
Leave room in your carry-on for a binder you can pack with all the essential details. Fill it with your tickets, reservation times, hotel information, and anything you might’ve received from a car rental agency. This is the place to put the details you might find yourself scrambling for upon arriving at your destination. It’s also a great spot to keep your itinerary details and any information you might need throughout your trip.
Keeping information and important documents all in one place — where you can get to it quickly and easily — will help reduce some of your stress as you navigate your new destination. It’ll also leave you feeling better prepared.
5. Breeze through security
Perhaps one of the most stressful parts of flying for novice travelers is getting through security. We’ve all heard horror stories. No one wants to be pulled aside or called out for holding up the line.
Come prepared. Wear flats or other shoes that are easy to remove, place in a security bin, and put back on once cleared. Keep your jewelry in your carry-on. Carry a bag that makes it easy for you to remove your electronics to place in a separate bin. Look up liquid restrictions ahead of time and have everything in Ziploc bags. Keep prescriptions for any meds you may be carrying in your travel binder.
Most importantly, pay attention to what everyone else around you is doing. When in doubt, there’ll almost always be a more seasoned traveler nearby who can help you figure out what to do next.
6. Treat yo’self
Ease your nerves by doing your best to make your travel a luxury. Splurge on a meal or an alcoholic beverage. Get one of those overpriced entertainment players. If ever possible (and within your budget), upgrade your seating arrangements. These little luxuries can help you enjoy your flight just a touch more. If flying is in and of itself a stressful experience for you, it’s worth it.
The most important thing to remember when traveling is that there’s usually a destination you want to get to. There’s a reason this trip is worth the anxiety. Try to keep that destination in mind as well as the motivation behind your travel. The getting there will be over before you know it!
Leah Campbell is a writer and editor living in Anchorage, Alaska. A single mother by choice after a serendipitous series of events led to the adoption of her daughter, Leah is also author of the book “Single Infertile Female" and has written extensively on the topics of infertility, adoption, and parenting. You can connect with Leah via Facebook, her website, and Twitter.