The line between stress and excitement during travel can be very thin, and nowhere is this particular tightrope walk more obvious than when you’re rushing to make a flight. Except, perhaps, when you’re waiting waiting waiting for a delayed flight. You might be going somewhere amazing, but the distance between home and away can be frustrating—and this can lead to sub-optimal decisions that will impact your health and well-being. Here, we have a few simple tips to make both your long haul and puddle jump travel a little more healthy and happy—even when you’re dealing with holdups, lost luggage, and cramped cabins.
The Waiting Game
Much of the stress of travel is more about the anticipation of things going wrong, versus actual real-time SNAFUs. If you worry about things way before they’ve actually happened, there are a few steps you can take to reduce your anticipation anxiety. According to Travel and Leisure, 50 percent of travel stress is related to delays. So, what can you do if weather or other factors cause unexpected interruptions in your plans? We recommend changing your perspective, and viewing these inevitable hiccups as a natural part of travel. If you build your schedule to expect a bit—or a lot—of wait time (depending on how far you’re traveling), you can avoid negative emotion when delays crop up. Practically, this means that you shouldn’t schedule big-deal meetings immediately after a long vacay, and instead make sure that day is buffered for rest and restoration in case your flights get mixed up. You should also plot out a plan to keep you busy during delays. If you have tons of reading or endless expense reports to catch up on, make sure you’re charged up—all Arlo Skye carry-ons come with a built-in charger, BTW—and ready to dive in should you need to idle for a few hours. This will make waiting time feel productive rather than exasperating. And remember to check out the latest travel apps to get the scoop on reimbursement for canceled flights and cool airport lounges to make use of while you wait. You can also, in advance of your flight, check to see if any of your credit cards allow access to lounges in the city you’re going to. For example, Amex has several international lounges for Platinum card members in cities like Hong Kong and Mumbai, and you only need to show your credit card and boarding pass to gain access.
A major travel worry is lost luggage, which you can mitigate by making sure your carry-on is stocked with enough clothing and toiletries to get you through a few days without your checked baggage, should it go missing. If your traveling solo, a big game-changer is learning to pack enough in your carry-on for a full trip, and skipping check-in completely. When you get ruthless with your packing, you’d be surprised how many wardrobe re-runs you can get away with on vacations and business trips. In addition, be sure to learn about your credit card’s reimbursement policy for delayed luggage.
A layover in a new airport can be a duty-free shopping spree—or a timed obstacle course of confusing annoyances. In order to manage your expectations, try to find out how long it will take to walk from your arrival gate to your new departure gate. In some international airports—looking at you, Amsterdam Schipol—it may take 30 minutes to walk from one gate in one terminal to another gate in another terminal, with bus or airport train changes in between. And then, when you get where you’re going, there’s customs. A great way to make the customs experiences less irritating is to know exactly what is in store for you before you arrive. If you’re traveling internationally, research the customs process for the countries you’ll be visiting, and don’t assume all countries operate the same way (this goes double if you’re traveling with kids). "If you're frequently traveling to London from the US, then having the Registered Traveler service is essential,” said Kevin Fegans, Founder & President of The Communications Bureau. “We have all been on one of those overnight flights, scheduled a meeting post-flight, to only arrive at a three-hour customs line. With Registered Traveler, I scan my passport and enter via the UK and European citizens channel which normally takes less than 15 minutes.”
For many, the stress of travel happens after boarding, where the momentary lack of control over one’s conditions can be challenging. If turbulence bothers you, choose a seat over the wing—a location that typically experiences fewer bumps. The further back in the plane you sit, the more you’ll feel the bumps—this is one reason why first and business class is located in the front. And we won’t remind you that plane travel is the safest form of travel (though it actually is). Pro tip: go to a site like seatguru.com to find out what type of aircraft you’ll be flying on. If you have a choice between a smaller one and a bigger plane departing within a similar timeframe, pick the bigger one—this will always give you a smoother ride (and a higher chance to score that free upgrade). If you’re anxiety-prone, avoid alcohol and heavy meals, which can make things worse. And if flying makes your tummy turn, be sure to take some mints, and maybe a motion sickness patch. “Being a hypochondriac has its benefits when you are on a 10-hour flight,” said Kevin Fegans. “My travel Dopp kit is a flying medicine cabinet. From Advil cold & sinus, TUMS, sleeping aids, vitamin C, and hydrating masks, I'm the person who can solve any ailment mid-air.”
Whatever you do, do not forget that airplanes are not sterile environments. Perhaps to the surprise of many, the airplane bathroom isn't the dirtiest place on the plane. According to Forbes Travel Contributor, Geoff Whitmore, “while you should still be careful touching the flush button, door handle and other high-traffic spots in the bathroom, airlines are intentional about cleaning it regularly.” Airplane seatback trays and overhead air vents, on the other hand, have significantly higher levels of bacteria per square inch than the bathroom. We recommend consuming immune boosters—we like powdered vitamin C packets for easy transport—before and during your flight. This is obvious stuff, but you should also avoid walking barefoot in the plane, and bring disinfectant wipes to clean your tray table, arm rests, air vents and seat belt buckles (hint: lavender-scented ones also do double duty as calming aromatherapy). Airplane H2O is notoriously dicey, so remember to brush your teeth and wash your face with bottled water. And try to skip the airplane coffee and tea (which, given the general quality, shouldn’t be too hard to do). Finally: relax. You’re in the sky. Use this opportunity to disconnect from frantic texts and emails, and enjoy the momentary peace and quiet before touchdown occurs. And real life begins again.