Get your trip off to a stress-free start
Leisure travel is supposed to be fun, right? So, how is it that travel often takes a stressful turn?
Sometimes, it just can’t be helped. Bad weather and equipment problems can delay flights and cause missed connections. Lost luggage turns up eventually, but it’s no fun to wear the same clothes for days at a time, or to be without other essentials from home.
While some travel problems are out of your control, there are many steps you can take to ensure a smooth trip from beginning to end. We asked some savvy travelers for their best advice on stress-free travel in the digital age – just in time for the upcoming holiday season. Here’s what they had to say:
Make technology work smarter for you
Check in online, rather than waiting to check in at the airport. Most airlines will send you a message 24 hours prior to your trip, inviting you to check in, and to let them know if you intend to check bags.
Download your boarding pass to your smart phone. You’ll save time at the airport by showing the gate agent your boarding pass on your phone, and you’ll have one less piece of paper to hold onto during check in.
Arrive early at the airport
There’s nothing more stressful than rushing to catch a flight, then dealing with long lines at check in and Security before getting to your gate. Arrive early and relax in the gate area with a book or newspaper until it’s time to board.
Know and comply with Transportation Security Administration (TSA) rules
Be sure you’re ready to go through security. Have your boarding pass (paper or mobile) ready for inspection. Have your passport in hand if you’re traveling internationally.
There’s still some confusion about what you can and cannot pack in your carry-on bag, and being pulled aside by Security for a forgotten tube of toothpaste or bottle of perfume can cause major delays at the gate. Here are some “pro tips” for getting through Security without delay.
Apply for TSA Pre-check status. At the time of this writing, TSA Pre✓ ® is $85 for domestic travel and $100 for global entry. TSA Pre-Check identifies you as a low-risk traveler, and allows you to more through Security more quickly via special lines just for pre-screened travelers. The TSA website has complete information about how to apply, and the benefits of pre-check status.
Firearms are a “no”, although a surprising number of travelers try to bring guns onboard.
The 3-1-1 rule, in effect since 2006 still applies to carry-on bags. Here are the details, direct from the TSA.
- Liquids, gels, aerosols, creams and pastes must be 3.4 ounces (100ml) or less per container
- They must be in a 1-quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag
- 1 bag is permitted per passenger
The plastic bag must be taken out of your suitcase and placed into a screening bin.
Buy bottled water or soft drinks after passing Security, or you’ll be asked to dispose of them in line.
Struggling with multiple bags can cause unnecessary stress before and after you board. Pack what you need for your trip and no more to make it easy to check in and retrieve your luggage upon arrival.
Think ahead about the terrain you’ll be traversing when you arrive. Wheeled bags are a blessing in urban areas with smooth sidewalks, but can be hard to manage on the cobblestone streets of a quaint European city.
Be comfortable on board
Depending on the length of your flight, you’ll want to pack a little “care package” for yourself to be comfortable while you travel. A short trip won’t require much forethought, but it’s nice to have some of the comforts of home close at hand on long flights. Here are some favorites:
- If you’re flying overnight, ear plugs, eye mask and a neck pillow may help you sleep
- Tissues and wipes
- Travel size toothpaste and toothbrush
- Travel size hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes
- Lip balm and travel size moisturizer
- Dry snacks (for long waits between in-flight meals)
- Credit or debit card for in-flight purchases
- Mini first aid kit with pain reliever, antacid, decongestant
- iPad or e-reader and ear buds or headphones your own in-flight entertainment
What to pack is completely up to you, but again, pack just what you need to be comfortable.
Be prepared for your arrival
Planning ahead can avoid unnecessary stress and confusion when you reach your destination. If you have a connecting flight, look at the in-flight information to acquaint yourself with the layout of the airport or ask the flight attendant for assistance.
Same for ground transportation. Knowing the airport layout, where to retrieve luggage, where to catch a bus, taxi, hotel shuttle, or where to pick up a rental car ahead of time can make your arrival much easier. Many airlines also have their own mobile applications that if downloaded ahead of time, will provide maps and details pertaining to your trip.
Here are some final tips for stress free travel once you’re arrived at your destination.
Stick to a reasonable itinerary
Don’t try to see an entire city in one day. Create a travel plan that will allow you to fully enjoy your destination. Or consider using a service that caters to older travelers to strike a stress-free balance between adventure and leisure activities.
Keep your purse or wallet close at hand, stick to well-traveled streets, and only use licensed taxis and guides to get around town. Be aware of your surroundings, and avoid using your smart phone to navigate. Keep your eyes up and ears open, especially in areas with lots of traffic or congestion.
Don’t try to do too much
Be sure to schedule some down time into your itinerary. There’s nothing more stressful than trying to do too much on your first day, then feeling tired and sore the rest of your trip. Take care of yourself while traveling so you can truly enjoy your time away.
A little time spent on planning can help you enjoy a successful journey and create happy memories, which is the main reason to travel in the first place!