Leading up to a recent trip from San Jose, Costa Rica to San Francisco, California I was reflecting on the upcoming 10-hour layover in Mexico and thinking of all the fun I would have with my 15-year-old sister. While telling a friend about how excited I was for my impending travel day I was reminded by the tone of disgust in their voice that not everyone has such a zen-like relationship with air travel as I do. In that moment I decided to do my best to remedy that sad truth, and offer some of my tried-and-true tips that help make my travel days not only stress-free but actually quite enjoyable.
Purchase a Good Itinerary
I am all for getting the best deal on tickets possible, without paying private charter flights level prices for a good trip and there are many things I will happily endure for them. However there are some things that I avoid, even if it means spending a bit more.
Firstly, make sure your flight has a long enough layover. In general my rule is 90 minutes or more, but if my layover is in an international destination, I would rather have at least 2 hours (because it is necessary to clear customs and immigration, plus head back through security). Even on domestic flights I like to have 90 minutes because it allows cushion time in case the first flight is delayed. I would say the sweet spot is somewhere around 2-3 hours.
Also, when possible I suggest flying sometime around mid-day or early afternoon. I have found if I fly early in the morning I do not tend to sleep much the night before. And if the flight is much later you will clearly be flying through the night. Of course the further away your destination, the more inevitable disrupting your sleep cycle will become, but it is good to have the ideal in mind.
Prepare In Advance And Be Organized
The more you prepare in advance, the more you can relax during travel. Select your ideal seats, review airline rules relating to baggage before you pack, think about what you are going to bring days before you leave and pack your bag or suitcase in advance.
Also, be sure to get any details having to do with your home life squared away with ample time. Don’t wait to find someone to feed the cat, water your plants, or bring in your mail.
Be organized and develop a travel system that works for you. For example, I know that all my travel documents live in the same folder in Gmail and the day before I fly I always write down my flight details in a small notebook I carry with me everywhere (a smartphone may also be a good way to record or refer to these details). I also always set an alert in my calendar to check online for my flight 24-hours in advance. This is typical with most airlines and they will even send you a reminder email.
Clean Your Space Before You Leave
OK, I know you may be thinking that this item is a little out of place, but I promise you, cleaning your space before you leave is one of the best ways you can ease your mind. Not only will you feel calm and collected in your home the day before you travel, but you will have peace of mind knowing that you will be returning to a clean space. On the day of your return you can look forward to walking in your door and being grateful for the clean, welcoming environment you are returning to.
Plan Nothing For The Day Before You Travel
This is your day to relax and do anything that you may have forgotten, but don’t plan anything. Inevitably, your day will get filled up with last-minute errands. And if by some miracle it does not, you will be grateful for the space to get in your happy place (see below). Also, if you can plan a transition day for yourself on the other end of your trip (before heading back to work, life, etc) that would be ideal.
Of course, if you are going on a shorter trip, if you travel regularly for work, etc, having a day on each end of your trip may not be possible or necessary. If that is the case, try to carve out at least a few extra hours transition time for yourself.
Don’t Plan To Knock Things Off Your To-Do List On Travel Day
You should have nothing planned for your day of travel other than to enjoy the process of moving through time and space. If you end up getting something done, great, but don’t set tasks for yourself to accomplish. There are too many variables and one of the best ways to enjoy a day of travel is to embrace whatever comes up naturally.
Know Your Plan For Arrival
It’s a good idea to know what you are going to do once you reach your destination. Be sure to have all the details you may need with you, stored in an easy place to find in your carry-on luggage. Let companies like moving companies denver take care of the moving for you.
Also, if possible, it is good to know where you are going to stay the first couple nights and to have a basic outline for what you will do.
Get To The Airport With Ample Time
Plan for the unexpected and set aside plenty of cushion time. Whether it is a late friend on airport-drop duty, traffic, a long line at the security checkpoint, or so on, it is likely that something will come up during your travel day that takes up extra time. For this reason it is always a good idea to build in a buffer so if something comes up it will not stress you out.
Get In Your Happy Place
This is key. The day before you travel, take a trip to your happy place. Now stay there for the next 24 hours, or ideally, for as long as you can.
Everyone has their own way of accessing their happy place. Some find meditation, a walk in nature, or a foot massage brings them to their blissful oasis, while others would prefer a vigorous workout or feel-good movie. Whatever you like to do to relax and get in your zen frame of mind, be sure to make time for it before you head to the airport.
Now keep that happy place close by. If you feel yourself tapping your toe in the baggage-drop line, visit that blissful place. Once you are in a relaxed frame of mind, it is suddenly easy to see the fun side of people watching in line, trying to guess peoples’ nationality based on accent, and generally to just take in the environment around you.
Come back to your calm, steady breath. Think about the awesome journey you are one. And take it all in with joy and gratitude.
Wear clothes that you can comfortably sit and move in. Avoid wearing accessories, which you will have to take off to pass through security.
Plan Your Carry On Bag Strategically
I suggest a comfortable backpack, side bag or purse as your carry-on item as suitcases can become cumbersome in the airplane. Even though everything I own fits into a 28 Liter pack, on air travel days I take the items I like to fly with out and put them in my day pack (or if I am not traveling with my knife and kitchen peelers, I just bring the whole pack as a carry on).
Bring the items that you will enjoy having with you. Some of my essential items are a laptop, ereader, ipod and headphones, a notebook, sleeping bag, eye mask, and ear plugs. If you like indulging in the latest magazines while you travel, by all means treat yourself at that in-terminal news stand!
Bring Your Own Snacks
Airport food is overpriced, generally unhealthy, and unreliable. Sometimes you will not even find a joint with anything better than some sugary liquids and packaged science experiments near your gate and if time is short you won’t have a chance to go out looking. The best bet is to bring your own snacks. Some of my favorites to travel with are grapes, clementines, apples, dates (or other dried fruits) and celery.
Stand Stretch And Walk Around While Waiting Near Your Gate
You will soon be sitting for long enough, so unless you are exhausted by your trip to the gate, enjoy being vertical and moving your body. Some of my favorite airport exercises are walking, squatting, lunging, yoga and handstands. Your range of movement will be defined by how bold you want to be in the airport. I personally go all out and have had nothing great experiences because of it, but even if you just feel comfortable walking around or swaying from side to side, do indulge, your body will be grateful.
Wait To Board Until The Line Has Dwindled Way Down
One of the best tips I have found is about avoiding the “stop-and-go” method of air travel. As long as you are imitating those around you, navigating your way through the airport may end up feeling something like doing the funky chicken dance, rushing and then halting to a stop at each new checkpoint. But as a well-planned and conscious traveler, you can enjoy each phase of modern jet travel in peace.
There is no point rushing to stand in line with all the disgruntled folks, eager to sit down when you can enjoy the rest of your stretching, using of the full-sized restrooms, filling your water-bottle, and so on. Then, when the line has dwindled down to the last few, enjoy boarding at your leisure. Since you have a small carry-on baggage you don’t have to worry about over-head space and as long as you aren’t flying with Southwest, the order in which you board does not actually matter anyway.
Get Comfortably Settled In On The Plane And Enjoy The Ride
Now that you are all stretched out, you don’t have to pee, you are settled in your ideal seat, and still in your happy place, it is time to get comfortable and enjoy the ride. Get your belongings settled under the seat in front of you, perhaps placing your water bottle in the seat pocket for easy access. You may like to take off your shoes or put your eye mask and ear plugs on right away. Basically, don’t be afraid to get comfortable and make that seat your new oasis for the foreseeable future while you are magically propelled through time and space!