This weekend starts the big exodus for most people: traveling to families, traveling home, traveling to a quaint cottage in North Carolina where you’ve gathered all the families (or maybe that’s just my dream Holiday idea). The big crowds mean long lines and lots of stressed out people trying to get to their flights. There are a few things you can do to prevent and ease your stress, though.
Pack. Earlier than the night before/morning of your flight. This one is more of a “do as I say, not as I do,” to be honest, but I know that it’s one thing that would make my day of travel much more enjoyable. Start doing laundry a week or so before your trip, and as you fold the clothes, start packing your bags with stuff you know you’re going to take.
Pro Tip: Leave at least two clean work outfits in your closet to wear when you get back, so that you don’t have to start doing laundry as soon as you get back.
Check-in online. Almost all airlines now allow you to check in online, usually starting 24 hours before your flight. There are a few benefits to this: if you haven’t already selected your seat, this might be your last good chance to do so. Also, you lessen your chances of getting involuntarily bumped from a flight in the event of overbooking (which is always more likely during the holidays).
Double check your packing. Do you really need three different colors of the same sweater for a six day trip? Are you going to be able to do laundry where you are going? Do you have enough underwear? (Once, I completely forgot to pack any underwear.) Taking a second look over everything the night before can help you save space and keep you from forgetting essentials.
Prebook your airport parking. If you need to park at or near the airport, make sure to pre-book your parking because the holidays are their busiest times of year, too. Sometimes, pre-booking gets you discounts, as well.
Security Friendly Outfits. We’ve all gotten used to the whole laptops out, sweaters off, shoes in the bin security theatre. After many flights back and forth across the Atlantic, I’ve perfected my all-weather, comfy, easy in-and-out uniform that feels great and makes me feel like a movie star when I land.
Underwear – Comfort is key, especially if you’re on long haul flights. If you can, find an underwire free bra. If not, whatever bra (or lack thereof) is most comfortable. Pack an extra pair of underwear (in a plastic bag) in your carry-on… I’ll explain why later.
Clothes – A cotton jersey dress and leggings is my go-to outfit. I don’t have to worry about flashing someone while I’m trying to find a comfy position to sit in and if it’s warm on the plane, the leggings come off.
Shoes – NOTHING WITH LACES. Ballet flats, fake UGGs, galoshes, whatever is slip on, slip off. Trust me, this one isn’t just for you, it’s for all the people behind you. Or behind your husband who likes to wait until you’re the next ones through the machine to take off his shoes. You know, hypothetically.
Accessories – Layer, layer, layer. I tend to have a medium to lightweight scarf, a cozy sweater coat, and either a trench coat or a pea coat on top (depending on the weather to/from where I’m going). While I usually don’t wear the coat on the plane, it’s something I want when I land. The sweater and scarf help keep me warm on freezing planes where the blanket only covers about 2% of your body area.
The Refresher. Okay, now this is my most important tip for you. It’s necessary on long-haul flights (especially overnight ones), but you’d be surprised how refreshing it is even if you’ve just been in the air a couple of hours. In the little plastic toiletry bag in your carry-on, pack the following: eye drops, toothpaste, toothbrush, face cleaning wipes, deodorant. Take that, your underwear bag (from earlier), and whatever makeup you like to wear to the bathroom about 40 minutes before landing. Change your underwear. Reapply your deodorant. Brush your teeth. Refresh your eyes. Clean your face. Reapply makeup. Brava. You look and feel like you just left the house, rather than like you spent hours in a dry tin can being dehydrated.
Headphones and Music. Noise cancelling are the best, but even regular headphones can help drown out some of the crying and beeping and talking and other ambient noise around you.
Hydrate. Many times, water and cups will be left out in the galley area. Help yourself to these to prevent dehydration. If there’s none out, ask the flight attendants.
Think Positive. It really sucks to have a crying baby around you, but you know who it sucks more for? The parents. Even more? The baby. As a childless person, but a former sufferer of ear problems, I try to remember that kids don’t understand why their ears hurt or why they can’t get up and walk around when the seat belt light is on. Parents can’t walk away and take a break from it, either. Just remember that, in a few hours, you’ll be off that plane at at your destination. Same with any other flight annoyances. Trying to stay on the positive side will keep you from getting dragged down with all the people who are stressing you out.
In-flight Yoga. It might look weird, but taking a few minutes out to do some stretches can really feel great. YogaDownload has a free, five minute session of office yoga that can easily adapt to planes.
Hang Back. If you’re not connecting to another flight, hang back for a minute and let everyone else rush off. Trust me, if you’re the first off the plane, you’ll still have to stand and wait for your bags, which will only have started to come by the time the last person is off the plane. Taking yourself out of the “rush rush rush” mode will do wonders for your stress level.
And one annoying tip…
If you can, spring for early boarding. Getting to go right on the plane when it opens, rather than hovering around, hoping to be first when your section is called is a small pleasure, but a divine one. If you really can, spring for first class on long-haul flights. There’s nothing like a welcome glass of champagne and a post-dinner Bailey’s to make traveling stress-free.
Other Useful Resources
Jenny Rose Ryan gives you some great tips on traveling with a baby.
The TSA has a variety of helpful articles on getting through the line faster, lists of prohibited items, and traveling with foods and gifts.
The TripIt websites and apps are great for keeping track of your itineraries and other important travel information.
What are your tried and true ways of making travel as stress-free as possible?