Like most people, my husband and I will be traveling for the holidays. Thankfully, we are doing it by car and not airplane. It’s so freeing to know you don’t need to be at the airport at a certain time; go through security; take your shoes off; get dressed again in front of strangers; try to get in the plane as soon as your row is called so you can get your bag in the overhead compartment; and then sit next to a crying baby or rude passenger.
Of course, many of you will be hopping on a plane this holiday season, so I’ve rounded up some tips to help you keep your cool.
-Be prepared. There’s nothing worse than showing up for a flight and realizing you’ve left your ID or ticket at home. Keep your wallet and vital items (ticket, credit card, etc.) together and leave a note on your front door or steering wheel reminding you to double-check before you leave for the airport. Don’t save your packing for the last minute; do it the day before and make a list to ensure you’ve got everything. You can also avoid last-minute seating snafus by selecting your seat ahead of time, checking in online as soon as the option becomes available, and providing your frequent flier membership details at the time of purchase.
-Be on time. Expect long lines at the ticket counters and security checkpoints, and budget an extra hour to give you time to make your way through them. Don’t trust that you’ll be able to book a cab the day of; instead, drive yourself, ask a dependable pal for a ride, or arrange for a reputed car service or airport shuttle ahead of time. Being late will only compound the stress.
-Pack smart. Checking your luggage and toting a small carry-on will help you breeze through security and save you from squeezing your oversized wheeled case into an overhead bin. Just be sure that you pack any valuables (jewelry, medication, essential toiletries) in your carry-on in case your luggage gets lost. Carrying lots of Christmas presents? If they’re small, keep them in your carry-on. If not, avoid wrapping them ahead of time because they could be unwrapped during the security process. Another idea is to ship your gifts to your final destination—it will help you travel light and stress-free. Finally, don’t forget to observe the airline’s baggage rules; be aware of the new weight restrictions and keep any liquids in a Ziploc bag.
-Dress smart. We’ve all been the poor soul stuck behind someone who insists on wearing a heavy metal belt, lots of jewelry, and a pocketful of change through the metal detector. Do a quick check before you hit the security checkpoint and take a moment to remove anything that might trigger the alarm. Don’t forget to remove your jacket and shoes! (I avoid lace-ups to easily slip my shoes on and off, but either way, you should make sure your stockings or socks are at least clean and hole-free!) I hate it when people stand in an endless line and don’t make a move until they get to the detector!
-Eat healthily. Bypass the airport’s chain restaurants in favor of a granola bar, veggie slices, fruit, or a healthy sandwich. Bottled water will help you stay hydrated and less at the mercy of the beverage cart. Eating and drinking something sensible will help you avoid crankiness, not to mention heartburn and indigestion—nobody wants that while stuck on a plane!
-Be courteous. Don’t take up extra seats in the passenger lounge for your newspaper or bags. Don’t cut in line. Be patient. Don’t move other people’s belongings or take up precious cargo space with your handbag or coat, which can fit underneath your seat. Arrive freshly showered and well-groomed, and keep your fragrance light as people may be allergic or sensitive to it. And maintain your calm when speaking with airline personnel. Delays may happen, and flight attendants may be a little slow to respond, but getting worked up, angry, or insulting won’t get you anywhere.
-Be a good seatmate. If you’re not up for chatting, at least acknowledge your seatmate with a friendly nod or smile, then pull out your book, headphones, laptop or pillow. They’ll probably get the hint. And, avoid putting your seat back until after take-off. It’s such a pain to climb and squeeze through a row of reclined chairs. And if a crying baby or loud child is driving you crazy, pull out your headphones to tune it out. Taking your anger out on a flustered parent won’t help.
If travel is getting to you, just take a deep breath and remind yourself that you’re traveling to see loved ones and celebrate the holiday—and surely that’s worth a headache or two?