These tips will make your time at the airport just a little more enjoyable.
Having traveled extensively before in the past and just returning from an exhausting flight from an arctic state (Minnesota), you can say I’ve picked up a few tips along the way on how to stay sane and stress-free at the airport. While the holidays may be coming to a close, there are probably a few stragglers who are still traveling to exotic places for New Years or have yet to return from their destinations. If this is the case for you, you know that traveling during the holidays can be insane. Like, going to Coachella in your 30s and being surrounded by teens insane.
While some may get an adrenaline rush from waiting in line for an hour to be patted down by strangers, others, like me, dread the moment they have to step foot into that airport, check in, go through security, wait, board, try and fall asleep, listen to that baby crying… you catch my drift.
To keep you happy (or as happy as you can be when traveling 40,000 feet above the ground), here are some tips that will keep your trip stress-free and, dare I say it, enjoyable?
1. Wear Comfy Clothes
One of Quora’s most frequently asked questions was, “Why don’t people dress up when they go to the airport?” The asnwer: because dressing up in an airport environment can be incredibly uncomfortable which can, in turn, make you feel uncomfortable and pretty crappy after a long period of time. With all the walking and waiting (possibly even running if you’re late) you’ll have to do, dressing as comfortably as possible will make your trip as enjoyable as it can be. I recommend wearing jogger pants (or even yoga pants), a comfy sweater since airplanes are usually very cold and sneakers. Don’t wear heels, the tightest pants in your closet or a low-cut shirt that makes you feel like a freshly-squeezed sausage.
When it comes to the airport, it’s not about looking good. It’s about getting to where you need to be and feeling comfortable while doing it.
2. Don’t Wear Makeup
This is in line with why you should only wear comfortable clothes. Not only is wearing makeup while traveling terrible for your skin, if you have a long flight, it can begin to feel very uncomfortable and constricting.
When in a pressurized cabin, such as an airplane, that is traveling in high altitudes, your skin will begin to get very, very dry. If you’re wearing makeup, this can do more harm than good on your skin by agitating it and resulting in clogged pores and the increased appearance of fine lines.
Also, if you’re wearing makeup, you’ll have to worry about touch-ups, oil blotting and resetting once you’ve landed. My advice? Bring your makeup with you on your carry on (I decant my makeup in TSA approved-sized containers) and apply once you’ve landed. This way, you’ll arrive to your final destination with a fresh face and clear skin!
3. Check In & Print Your Boarding Passes Beforehand
Some airlines allow you to check in your bags and print out your boarding passes the night before. If the airline you’re flying with is one of them, take advantage and print out your boarding passes before arriving to the airport. This way, you’ll avoid having to wait in the long check-in line and can just drop off your bags, and you’ll know where your gate is beforehand.
4. Make Sure Your Bags Are Under 50 LBs.
If you have a scale at home, I suggest you take advantage of it and weigh your bags before you leave. Doing this will ensure a speedy check-in, thus avoiding the embarrassing scenario of having to open your luggage in front of everyone and shuffle clothing over to make the 50 lb. cutoff. I once had to do this and, having stuffed instead of packed my clothing the night before, ended up opening my luggage to have all of my skivvies spill out onto the floor and in front of everyone standing in line. Good thing I didn’t bring any sex toys with me.
Doing this at home is much better than the alternative, or even worse, having to pay the extra $100 to bring on your 2 lb.-over-the-limit luggage.
5. Get There Early
Yes, this may sound insane, but I highly recommend getting to the airport two hours earlier than your flight is intended to leave if its domestic and three hours if its international.
One can never predict how long the line will be to check in (although you did print out your boarding passes beforehand, right?), go through security, or even get to the airport. Instead of having to rush, arrive 2-3 hours earlier and allow yourself enough time to check in and go through security at a leisurely pace. Well, as leisurely as you can without TSA herding you along like cattle.
If you get to your gate with ample time to spare, reward yourself with a coffee and your favorite book, and kick back before its time to board.
6. Bring Lots Of Snacks & An Empty Water Bottle In Your Carry On
Yes, we always have an estimate of how long our flight is going to be, but one can never be sure. I once had a 90-minute flight from SF to LA that ended up being a 6-hour mess due to delays. It was in that instance that I really wished I had packed way more food in my carry on.
Airport food can be expensive and, if you have dietary restrictions, limited. Instead of splurging on a $20 burger that tastes like it’s from Carl’s Jr., bring lots of snacks, bars and fruit with you. I also recommend bringing an empty water bottle or thermos you can fill up after passing through security. Water is also pricey and, nowadays, most airports have designated areas where you can refill your water bottles. Ah, technology and innovation!
7. Bring Something To Keep Busy With
Such as was the case with bringing extra food, bringing something that will keep you busy will make your trip way more tolerable. To pass the time and distract yourself from the fact that you have two inches of legroom and are being pressed up on both sides by strangers who feel as uncomfortable as you, bring a book or two, your favorite magazines, a drawing pad or some writing utensils.
Whenever I travel, I bring more than is necessary: two notebooks, pens, and three books. I don’t honestly think I’m going to get through everything, but in the event that my flight is delayed or I’m extra productive, I’m prepared.
Bringing something fun and familiar will also help you (almost) forget that you’re in a foreign place and about to embark on a nerve-wracking flight.
8. Take Everything As It Comes
The most important thing to remember when flying: take it easy and go with the flow. There are a lot of little things that irk me whenever I travel, with the most annoying one being the curtness of TSA agents. While I understand their job is incredibly stressful and they see thousands of people a day, is a little common courtesy too much to ask for? Travelers aren’t animals, nor should we be treated as such. Instead of letting their rude behavior get to me, I have to remember to take a deep breath and let it go.
Things are going to come up when you’re at the airport or on your flight, whether it be someone who doesn’t understand that they need to take off their shoes and remove their laptop when passing through security, or unexpected turbulence that makes you want to throw up on your neighbor. Things are going to happen and the best way to handle them is by acknowledging their existence and letting them go.
Not everything is going to be perfect, but if you can handle the imperfections, your time at the airport will be much, much easier.
If you’re coming back for the holidays, safe travels, and if you’re planning a trip, I hope these tips make your time a lot easier. Bon voyage!