Traveling can be stressful—heck traveling IS stressful…..even for the expert traveler. There is something about airports, train stations, and car rental companies that rachet up you blood pressure, your anxiousness, and your need to learn the art of patience. Somehow, getting from point A to point B is exhausting……just utter exhausting.
My horse trainer used to tell me to “Plan for the emergency” and travel is no different. There are ways to mitigate your stress, make traveling a bit more pleasant, and get you to your destination a little less weary. Plan for the inevitable travel emergency – a gate change, a long check-in or security line, delays in shuttles, heavy traffic en route, etc. It’s far better to have a cushion than to worry about missing your flight.
1. Arrive early….seriously…..arrive early!! I know…..it’s a pain to sit in the airport……the chairs are uncomfortable (if you can even find one), the food is atrocious, and it’s easy to get bored—-bring a book, a deck of cards, your music—whatever you need to make the wait bearable…..just arrive early. Although security lines can be an issue, the real point of arriving early is to check-in early enough and presenting yourself at the gate early enough to keep your seat. If you do not make the minimum required time, you will be denied boarding—the amount of time depends on your final destination. Worrying about making your flight significantly adds to the stress level of your travel experience!!!
Case in point: I always, always, always tell my clients to arrive in a foreign airport three hours before departure. On my last trip to Italy, I allowed my driver to convince me to arrive later. He strongly suggested two hours—I split the difference and arrived two and a half hours before my flight. The driver who actually picked us up was inexperienced and arrived 15 minutes late. We had to take a shuttle to the United States’ Airlines security area along with a hundred of our closest traveler friends smushing ourselves on a bus meant for 25 people. The throng of hurried travelers and the mayhem of boarding the bus forced us to miss the first shuttle. Stress Stress Stress. Check-in was a nightmare (always is in certain European airports), our VAT refund took forever, there was yet another line to shuttle back to the main terminal area and we were in danger of missing our flight. I was anxious, stressed, and grouchy!! Arrive early!
2. Keep your travel documents in one handy area – preferably in a folder or zippered pouch. At some airports, you will show your passport fifty-two times—keep it handy. At car rental companies, you will need your passport, US driver’s license, confirmation, and your international driver’s license. Have everything handy so you don’t have to dig through your bag–creating more anxiousness. If you are a honeymooner, carry a copy of your marriage license if the hotel is giving you special honeymoon amenities—just in case they ask for proof of marriage. Check your expiration dates on your documents early.
3. The security line is the same everywhere…..plan ahead. Put your liquids and aerosols in a quart sized bag and keep it handy. Put the bag in the plastic bin outside of your luggage. Take your computer out of it’s bag, wear easily slipped off shoes, minimize your jewelry, belts and other metal accessories. Don’t try to skirt the rules or you run the risk of being further delayed at the security line. Go through your purse or briefcase before you leave the house to rid yourself of any questionable item. My sister once went through a thorough search because she left a tire gauge in her purse.
4. When boarding a train, ask the conductor if the train is going to your destination. It’s easy to misunderstand which train is yours—especially if your stop is not the final destination. Asking ensures you don’t realize your mistake fifteen minutes into your train departure. Likewise, check the departures screens at the airport to ensure your departure gate has not changed. Gates change quite often and you don’t want to get stuck miles away from your gate and have to run.
5. Have your hotel phone number and address handy. In this day and age of mapquest and GPS apps, we sometimes forget that it is easy to get directions from the hotel. If your map or GPS is incorrect (it is known to happen) or if your phone dies, it is helpful to have the phone number to get assistance.
Lastly, remember to put on your Patient Hat. Practice your yoga breathing. Don’t let the slow people get under your skin. Be polite to the airport officials. Life is way too short to travel crabby.