When we think of travel, our minds typically drift to relaxing beach destinations or old, romantic city streets. I’m sure everyone wishes they had the ability to Apparate to their dream coffee shop or tropical yoga retreat – but sadly, it takes a little more effort than that.
While the experience is (very, very much) worth it, travel, and airports in particular, can be very stressful to navigate. People with more anxious dispositions – yep, that’s me – might find their minds and hearts racing and a-fluttering through airports and layovers, triple checking everything until, finally, landing.
But hey… the process of getting to where you want to go doesn’t need to be that awful (ooh, metaphors). I’ve traveled alone on international, long-haul flights quite a bit, and that’s helped me figure out what helps make the process go more smoothly. I’m no longer as anxious about missing flights and losing luggage as I used to be.
One thing I’ve learned is that we’re not fully in control of everything – there is always going to be a chance of delays and other bumps in the road. Shift your energy to what you can control, and let go of the rest – because try as you might, there are some things you just can’t change.
Planning everything in advance ensures that you’ve done everything you can to help your trip go smoothly. The preparation is worth the peace of mind. Everyone experiences things differently, but I hope these tips help you manage any stress and anxiety you may feel at every step of the way.
Packing and prep
Scrambling for things last minute is something you might want to avoid. So grab a pen and paper, or use the Notes app on your phone, and make a list of things you will need one week in advance of your trip. Include toiletries, clothes, accessories, medication, gadgets (and their chargers) as well as in-flight essentials. The night before, get your essential documents and passport ready, and lay out your full travel outfit.
Be sure to check your in-flight luggage and security guidelines. The standard rule for liquids are that containers must contain less than 100 mls, and they should all go in a single plastic sandwich bag. If you’re vegetarian or have other special dietary needs, let your airline know 24 hours in advance. Getting all the details ready will help you get through without any last-minute panic.
Getting to the airport
Plan your trip to the airport well in advance. Are you going to drive yourself, or can you get a friend to take you? Will you use public transport, like a bus or cab? Make sure you’re comfortable with the plan and that your mode of transportation is reliable. For international flights, it’s a good idea to arrive 3 hours in advance to be sure you can take your time with checking in and getting through security.
At the airport
A positive attitude goes a really long way. Lots of people get pretty grumpy at airports. While that’s totally understandable, remember that everyone is just doing their job, and no one is out to get you. And remember, don’t be afraid to ask questions. While traveling alone wasn’t as hard as I initially thought it would be, I still ask airport staff questions if I feel lost.
Checking in doesn’t require too much effort on your part, except for some patience when waiting in line. If you’re there in advance, there’s usually nothing to worry about. If you can, try checking in online ahead of time to speed up the process and pick a seat that is more comfortable for you.
Yay, security! Everyone’s favorite part!
The key here is to take deep breaths. Really. You’ll get through it. Believe it or not, the security guys and girls want you to make it to your flight in time, too.
To get through the whole process smoothly, preparation is key. Be sure to wear easy layers, including shoes that are easy to slip off and on, and avoid too much jewelry. Keep any jewelry and complicated accessories you want to wear in your bag, and put them on after security.
Have your electronic devices (laptop, tablet, e-reader, etc) ready, sans pouches and sleeves, as well as your little plastic liquid bag. This tiny bit of advance prep makes things so much easier.
Up in the air
For me, getting on the plane is when I start to relax and unwind. All that triple-passport-checking-jacket-off-jacket-on stuff is finally over (for now).
However, a lot of people do not have the same experience. Being on a plane can be the most stressful part for some who struggle with anxiety related to being off the ground.
Here are a few tips for that:
- Noise-canceling headphones are your best friend. Download relaxing music and meditation tracks ahead of time to play once you get on the plane, and any other time you need.
- Grab a relaxing essential oil or two and dab a little behind your ears, and on your temples and wrists to calm your nerves. Lavender and vanilla work best.
- Read a magazine or book to keep yourself grounded when you’re up in the air. You can also listen to an audiobook or some podcasts – just be sure to download those ahead of time.
It might sound cliché, but super deep, slow breaths can help you get through any momentary stress. Focus on what’s happening right now, and try not to get caught up with potential scenarios that may or may not happen five steps down the road. And keep your eyes on the prize – the beautiful view will always be worth it.
Are there any tips you have for traveling with ease? Please share in the comments below!