I love traveling. I love airports. I don’t remember ever a time when I didn’t want to go on a trip. I am not afraid of flying and I am not afraid to travel alone, however, for some strange reason my body always stresses out before a travel day.
When I stress out, I get back pain because my muscles become tense. I always get stress-related back pain when I have an upcoming trip, especially the day before. I don’t understand why this happens because of the reasons above (not afraid, love traveling, etc). So why do I stress out? I may not be consciously stressed out or worried or afraid, but I guess my body and my subconsciousness tune into a fight or flight situation, it is aware that so many things could go wrong when you travel.
Traveling always has an element of surprise, no matter how much or how well you plan your trip, almost always things will go differently than planned. I am a lover of adventure, but I also love planning. I don’t like change, but I adapt extremely well to it. These combinations may be why I love traveling but stress out about it too. Everyone has their own reasons to stress about, but no matter what they are there are many things one can do to reduce travel stress.
Here are 7 practical tips:
1. Pack ahead of time
Packing a day before or the same day of your trip will significantly increase stress because whenever we leave things to the last-minute we feel like we are running out of time, and if we feel that we are running out of time, we stress out and become more prone to forgetting things.
I am guilty of many times packing a day before; it is certainly possible, but not a good stress reliever.
Pack everything you can, starting about a week before your trip and make a list of anything that you will have to pack on the day of the trip (chargers, electronics, toiletries, etc). Keep valuables safe with you, you don’t want to stress about them getting lost in airportland.
2. Online check-in
Most airlines now allow you to check in online 24 hours before your flight. I always like using this option whenever possible. If you are checking in bags or if you have to be checked for visas or residencies you might not be able to check in online fully, but you can fill out information and choose your plane seats to make the process faster at the airport. You may be able to print your tickets at home or even get a code to scan with your phone as your ticket at the security line.
3. Check the baggage allowance
Every airline is different. Some allow you to check-in two bags for free, some charge you for checking-in any bags. It all depends on the airline and your flight (domestic, within the continent, transatlantic). I encourage you to check the bag allowance of your airline even before you buy tickets because a flight might be $250 but they charge you $50 to check in bags, and another flight might be $300 but they don’t charge you for bags. By knowing the baggage allowance, you can avoid the stress of the surprise at the airport of having to pay for bags.
Also, by weighing your bags before you leave to the airport you can avoid the stress of having to pay for overweight bags or having to open your bags at the airport to remove things. This is especially recommended on the way back from your trip as bags generally come back fuller, am I right? You can use a portable luggage scale like this one or this one to weigh your bags at home or at the hotel.
4. Buy travel insurance along with your tickets
Most travel websites (like Orbitz, Kayak, and Expedia) offer the option to purchase travel insurance when you buy your flight tickets. It’s usually around $20-30 USD; not a big price to pay when you miss your connection or your luggage gets lost. It will give you peace of mind in case those unfortunate situations do happen.
5. Check flight status often
The day before, before leaving to the airport, at the airport, when you get off the plane if you have a connection…
Look for the screens and check if your flight is on time, boarding, canceled, or delayed; and always check the terminal and gate, especially if you have a connection. Do this before heading to the gate that your ticket indicates, these often change while you are flying. Nothing more stressful than finding out you are at the wrong terminal because your gate changed and you only have 10 minutes to get to the correct gate. Sign up for notifications if you can.
6. Arrive at the airport with plenty of time
It is better to catch up on some reading or get to know the airport than to stress out in security lines about missing your flight and even worse, actually missing your flight. TSA agents care more about security than you missing your flight, so don’t count on a free pass.
Even though arriving 1 hour before your flight might be enough, it is way less stressful not to risk it. Arriving at least 90 minutes before a flight is best, and 3 hours before an international flight.
7. Have in-flight peace by bringing the right things
Don’t stress too much in-flight by bringing:
- a neck pillow to sleep comfortably (an essential flying activity)
- a sweater or pashmina for those cold flights (don’t expect available blankets)
- earplugs for crying babies (let me clarify, the earplugs are for you, not the crying babies)
- snacks (chocolate, granola bars, nuts) for hunger attacks
- an empty water bottle to fill at the airport after the security line and before the flight (it’s important to keep hydrated)
- ibuprofen (for headaches and body aches)
- gum or travel size toothpaste and toothbrush
- socks (if you are wearing sandals)
- pen and paper (to fill out immigration forms and so much more)
- a book, a kindle, or a tablet with a reading app
Do you have any other tips for stress-free travel?
Resources to make your travel life easier:
Kayak and Hipmunk for buying tickets are my favorite for easy-use and best deals.
The GateGuru app has many features like flight status, airport info and car rental.
Airbnb for accommodation.
Tripadvisor for finding the best things to do while traveling and reviews.
Dropcam to keep an eye on your home, business or pet from anywhere.