I usually don’t write non-humorous lists on this blog, but I’ve traveled a lot this year so it’s on my mind. So far, I’ve been on 40+ flights and on 50+ trains, and driven 10 rental cars a few thousand miles (and I’m writing this on a plane). I am still sane, however, so I thought I’d share a few tips on how to lower your stress and anxiety levels through planning better. Now, get out there and enjoy our roads and airports with your fellow holiday travelers.
1. Never plan for the best-case scenario. Your bag is always going to take longer to get to the baggage claim than you think it will, especially if your friend or family member is circling the airport waiting for you to emerge. The line at the rental car counter will always take longer than you want it to. Traffic will always be 10 to 300 percent worse than you imagine. Adjust your schedule to the world, because the world doesn’t care about your schedule.
2. Always pee. Especially in places like Manhattan (where public restrooms are so scarce there’s an app for finding them). Yes, I know you’re not six years old. Just go whenever you can—just before you leave the coffee shop or restaurant, just before you get on the plane. Even if you don’t “have to.” See, aren’t you more relaxed now?
3. Carry a water bottle. Feel like shit when you got off the plane? There’s a good chance you’re dehydrated. Flight attendants dispense water in eight-ounce doses (and you probably ordered a gin and tonic or a coffee instead of water anyway). Bring your own water bottle and experience the joy of not relying on other people or retailers for your hydration.
4. Get to the airport early. Once you leave your house (or hotel), lots of things are out of your control: traffic, parking, ticketing lines, TSA lines, the person in front of you who can’t get their smartphone code to scan. You can’t control those things, but you can give yourself enough time that each one of them doesn’t cause a 20 percent increase in your blood pressure. Yes, the coffee in the airport isn’t usually that great, but I’d rather be through security drinking a halfway decent coffee and knowing I’ll make my flight than be 30 minutes away from the airport drinking a great cup of coffee.
5. Get aisle seats. Let’s be honest, there are no “good seats” in economy class anymore, are there? I was a late adopter of this one. Yes, there’s no view, but unlike window seats and middle seats, you at least have space to lean into if you’re sitting next to an armrest hoarder or manspreader. Plus you can get up to use the restroom any time you want, without bothering anyone. (See #2)
6. Use curbside check-in. For a few dollars’ tip, you can usually skip lines and ditch your checked bag way more quickly than you can inside the airport.
7. Get an airline credit card. For a small annual fee, you can often get a free checked bag (eliminate anxiety about overhead compartment space, plus you don’t have to drag your bag with you through the airport/airports), and priority boarding. Plus you might earn enough miles to get a free trip home to see your mom (or a free flight to Europe)
8. Don’t pack a bunch of shit you don’t need. Just like in backpacking and mountaineering, the weight and volume of your belongings can have an inverse effect on your ability to experience joy. Be mindful of this when you pack, and leave a couple things at home.
9. Relax. Put Kind of Blue or Blue Train on your phone, bring headphones, and listen to it as you take your time cruising through the airport and enjoy not worrying if you’ll make it to your gate on time.