Having the opportunity to explore the world is not something most of us would pass up. Taking any trips, big or small, is something most of us look forward to, eagerly welcoming that much-needed escape to our daily routine. If you think about it, however, what we’re really looking forward to is the destination, not the actual process of getting there. And what a process that can be.
If you are anything like me, you loathe the whole process of going to the airport, dealing with security, schlepping your luggage around, and just that feeling of overall hectic frenzy that prefaces most journeys. The stress of being on time, standing in long lines and dealing with not-so-nice people can make traveling incredibly stressful, leaving us exhausted and flustered by the time we reach our destination. Most of these stressors are unavoidable; there will continue to be long lines, for instance, and annoying security procedures. But we can take some steps to help manage our travel anxiety and make the journey just as pleasant as our arrival. Here, a few of my tried-and-true travel tips.
Give yourself time. One of the things that causes the most stress when traveling is being rushed. Whether it’s running late for your flight or standing in a long cab line, oftentimes the strain of not having enough time is what makes us feel flustered and upset. So try and give yourself plenty of time to prepare for your journey.
- Pack a few days ahead of time (instead of, say, the night before). This way, if any last minute hiccups arise, you won’t be cramming stuff into your bag thoughtlessly.
- Pick out your outfit for the airport the night before—especially if you have a super early flight. Trying to pick out a well thought-out and comfortable outfit at 4am is the last thing you want to be doing.
- Google your route to the airport, and make sure you know how much time you need to arrive well before your flight. Also, check the route again the day of to see if any unanticipated traffic popped up and is delaying your ETA.
- Arrive well before your flight boards. Even if you hate being in an airport with nothing to do, being there early allows you time to deal with any last-minute issues you may not discover until you do arrive at the airport (e.g. unexpected delays at check-in). Fill any extra time by treating yourself to a coffee while catching up on emails or reading a book.
Be prepared for anything. Taking time to prepare yourself is especially good advice for longer flights and travel times that range past eight to ten hours. Make sure that your carry-on bag is stocked with things to make your flight comfortable and pleasant.
- Warm socks and sweater. Long flights can get extremely chilly!
- Healthy snacks. Plane food can be pretty unappetizing at times, and you don’t want to go hungry.
- Large, reusable water bottle. Flying can be extremely dehydrating. Remember to drink lots of water. A good key to how much you should be drinking is taking your body weight and dividing it by two—this is around how many ounces of water you should be having a day in general.
- Charger. You’ll likely be using your phone or laptop a lot, and you don’t want to run out of juice.
- Noise-cancelling headphones. Long flights usually mean a packed plane. Create your own quiet haven with some quality headphones.
- Journal. Plan out your itinerary or jot down notes from your journey.
- Fresh shirt, undergarments. If you’re going on a 10+ hour long flight, you’re going to feel pretty musty towards the end. Change during your layover or in the airplane bathroom for a quick freshening up.
- Deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste. Same reason as above!
- Travel-sized lotion or moisturizer. Plane air is extremely drying; your skin will thank you for the extra hydration.
- Eye mask and ear plugs. Longer flights usually offer complimentary versions of these, but I’ve found that investing in a decent pair of earplugs can make all the difference when trying to relax on a taxing flight.
- Entertainment of choice, be it your favorite playlist, streaming movies, crossword puzzles, whatever! Make sure you have these handy — and any electronics fully charged up.
- Book on your destination. This isn’t a requirement obviously. It’s just fun to learn and get excited about the place you’re visiting.
Stop. Think. Breathe. No matter how much you prepare, stuff can still go awry. We can’t expect our travels to be completely perfect, no matter how ready we are. Things like flight delays, bad weather and mechanical issues are just a few things that can affect our journey—and cause us to become upset. Next time you feel annoyance, anger or frustration arise during your travels, take ten deep rounds of breath. Inhale deeply though your nose and exhale slowly out of your mouth. If you can find some space to go sit quietly, do so. Counting to ten during your inhales and exhales is also helpful to calm both your mind and your physical body.
Move your body. If you’re lucky enough to be in an airport that offers room for yoga or stretching, take advantage of it! If not, find some space in the terminal to move around in. Low-to-the-ground poses will help ground your mind and relax your body. Here are some poses you can easily do at the airport or in your plane seat to help release tight muscles that can become sore from sitting too long.
- Seated figure-four legs: Cross your right ankle over your left knee. Flex your right foot, draw your right knee down towards the floor, and lean forward gently until you feel stretching in your hip and up the back of your thigh. Hold for ten breaths, and then repeat on the left side.
- Shoulder stretch: Interlace your fingers behind you, at your lower back. Press your palms together and begin to straighten your arms out behind you, slowly raising them up away from your back. Keep your chest broad and palms pressing. Hold for ten breaths.
- Hamstring stretch: Stand up and place your foot on a chair or raised surface, and straighten your leg. Keeping your leg as straight as you can, begin to slowly fold over your straight leg, stretching the whole back of the leg. Keep the foot of the extended leg flexed and your spine straight and long. Hold for ten breaths, then switch to opposite leg.
- Spinal twist: Sitting down on a chair or the floor, take your right hand and place it on the outside of your left knee. Take your left hand either on the back of the chair or the floor behind you. Gently push your right hand into your left knee, assisting yourself into a twist. As you inhale, lengthen the crown of your head up. As you exhale, gently twist a little deeper. Hold for five breaths, then switch to the opposite side.
And finally: Just stay positive! Even if you’re having the worst travel experience ever, try to cultivate thoughts that circle around your destination and exciting adventure to come. Traveling will always have its stressful moments, but helping yourself remain calm by being prepared, moving your body, and taking time to pacify your mind will help make the journey that much more pleasant. I hope these tips help in make your next adventure one that is gratifying — not just once you arrive at your destination, but throughout the trek towards your final stop!
Like us on Facebook!