Getting out of town to see the wonders of the world is a great way to broaden your horizons and shake up your routine. From a stroll on the beach to coffee at a street-side café, exploring this great blue planet can yield a sense of well-being, connections to others, insight on life and experiences to last a lifetime.
Traveling can be daunting, though. In particular, air travel has developed a less than ideal reputation lately. Long lines for security screenings, cramped seating and surly fellow travelers can become synonymous with a lot of reasons to stay home and curl up with a good movie.
It seems that no matter how much you plan, you can still run into problems that dampen the sunny proposal of seeking new vistas. These range from worrying about things you can’t control, to lugging around heavy baggage you really don’t need, to wasting precious days of vacation time battling the physical effects of jet lag.
The dreaded jet lag! First named in the late 1950s, this syndrome stems from crossing several time zones without sufficient time for our bodies to adjust to the different amounts of light and dark. In essence, our sleeping and waking cycles get jumbled, leaving us feeling groggy and confused. Pile this awful sensation on top of stress from worry, dehydration and long periods of inactivity, and you’ve got a recipe for serious misery. It’s a wonder anybody travels at all with all those problems!
Travel Like a Pro with Helpful Hints From Those in the Know
What you need is some solid insight into the realities of traveling and good advice on how to do it wisely. Whether you’re flying across the country or around the globe, the wisdom seasoned travelers have shared here will help you plan for a smoother experience en route and a better chance at a stress-free, enjoyable vacation filled with memories to last a lifetime.
Luckily, frequent flyers — those who travel often for business or pleasure — have learned ways to circumnavigate the pitfalls of airports and air travel. These savvy travelers know that websites — like Kayak, SeatGuru or FlightAware — can make planning your trip a seamless task. They also have the inside track on some simple and ingenious hacks for managing the stress and aggravation of the delays, overcrowding and boredom that accompany air travel.
From how to pack to finding a good sleep rhythm to feeling refreshed upon arrival, these tips from frequent flyers will get you to your destination in a good mood and ready to take in some new scenery.
Before you go:
1. Get your move on. Between waiting around at the terminal and being sandwiched into your coach seat on board, you’re going to be stationary for a long time. Getting some exercise before heading to the airport is the first pro tip that can start your journey off on the right foot.
A brisk walk, short jog, or energetic turn on the elliptical will lower your blood pressure, burn off some anxiety and help you relax during the entire journey. Whether you exercise regularly or not, once you’re tucked into your tiny airplane seat, you’ll be glad you got your move on earlier.
2. Pack less. Nobody wants to get stuck behind that guy. You know the one: the guy trying to fit a 75-pound hard-shell suitcase into the overhead bin. Wherever you’re going, you’ll likely need less stuff than you think, so leave that bulky coat or extra outfit at home.
Choose items you can wear multiple times or wash in a hotel bathroom and let dry overnight, like microfiber tops and lightweight fleece. No one will care that you’ve sported the same pullover and jeans in three different cities. You likely won’t even see the same people twice! Besides, you can always buy a new top, t-shirt or sarong at your destination and have a practical souvenir.
3. Roll when packing. Rolling your clothing is such a simple way to minimize both bulk and wrinkles that you’ll wonder why you ever folded.
4. Pack an overnight kit. Your carry-on should contain everything you’ll need to freshen up on-board before landing. A toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, clean undies and socks, a pre-moistened face cloth: these little luxuries don’t weigh much but can really make a huge difference. You might even want to purchase them in the airport to avoid problems at security (See tip #11). Hitting a strange city or terminal after you’ve brushed your teeth and changed into a fresh shirt will increase your focus and make navigating a breeze.
5. Layer your clothes. Planes waiting to take off can get stiflingly hot, but those little air blowers always seem too chilly. Temps in airports can range from tropical to Antarctic. Be prepared by layering from a tank top to a long-sleeved shirt to a cozy sweater or light jacket. And don’t forget comfortable shoes for sprinting between terminals. Stash lightweight flip-flops in your bag for later; airports demand practical footwear.
6. Consider the hoodie. Wouldn’t it be great to have a private space in that cramped coach seat? A hoodie can replicate that magical escape. Just pull up the hood — preferably over noise-cancelling headphones (see tip # 13) — for a little extra warmth, quiet and darkness. You’ll feel like you’re in your own private room, if only until drink service.
7. Request a special meal. Whether you’re vegetarian, observe kosher, have allergies or none of the above, requesting a special meal will get you served first and avoid that over-salty mystery food airlines are famous for. These designated meals also tend to be fresher and tastier, as they are often prepared in smaller batches.
Another option is to bring your own food, purchased in the airport (see tip #13 again). Most terminals include at least a few healthy choices, like fresh salads, fruit or wraps. Just avoid anything fried or overly spicy so the aroma doesn’t overwhelm your seatmates, and wait to eat at the same time as everyone else. You don’t want to make hungry, jealous enemies of those you’ll be stuck with for four hours or more.
At the airport:
8. Give in to being powerless. As soon as you set foot in that airport, simply accept that you are no longer in control. Lines will be long, planes will arrive and leave on their own mysterious schedules, babies will cry and other travelers will have no idea what they are doing. Once you give up the idea that you can change any of that, you’ll feel calmer, and your entire experience will seem more pleasant.
Accessing your inner patience may take a little practice, but the stress-reducing benefits of letting go are undeniable. This is not to say that you shouldn’t pay attention to gate changes and security concerns, but freaking out over flight delays or clumsy strangers does no one any good. It’s truly amazing what an attitude adjustment can accomplish.
9. Charge your phone or device from a television. Angling for space at infrequent outlets can be a daunting proposition. Bring your USB cord and plug into the back of any of the hundreds of TVs that are everywhere in airports.
10. Avoid both alcohol and caffeine. Though it may be tempting to get your vay-kay party started with cocktails while you wait for take-off, an alcohol hangover will only exacerbate jet lag. Likewise, too much caffeine will make you jittery and send you to that airplane potty an alarming number of times. Stick with water or green tea to feel your best while traveling.
11. Shop. You’ll be sitting soon enough on the plane. Take advantage of the wait before boarding to browse the airport shops for reading material, snacks or gifts. You might even purchase a light meal to-go, thereby avoiding the dreaded airline food. Getting this last bit of exercise will help you feel calmer and more relaxed once you’re seated in that shiny tube.
On the plane:
12. Counteract turbulence. It’s going to be a bumpy ride, so have a strategy to manage both your physical and emotional reaction to turbulence. As soon as the plane hits rough air, jiggle your body a little. No one else will notice because everyone is moving simultaneously, but your proactive movement will lessen your body’s fearful response to the shaking. Another way to tackle turbulence is to select a seat over the wing. This middle section of the plane acts like a fulcrum, remaining relatively stable while the rest of the craft see-saws in rough air.
13. Use noise-cancelling headphones. Whether you want to crank up Chopin or Nine Inch Nails, or simply avoid conversation in blissful silence, headphones are the best way to trick your mind into ignoring the discomfort of close quarters.
14. Practice mindful meditation. Focusing on your breathing and clearing your mind of negative thoughts can help reduce the stress of claustrophobia and the social anxiety of a crowded airplane. Breathe and let go, be thankful for the moment and visualize the joy of your journey.
15. Sync your schedule to your destination. As soon as you settle into your seat, change the time on your phone and other devices to that of your destination. This will begin to trick your brain into syncing up with that time zone, ease your long-term jet lag and help you morph into vacation mode.
16. Recreate your usual bedtime routine. As much as possible, follow the routine you normally do when it’s time for bed. Brushing your teeth, changing into a silky t-shirt or reading a chapter of a book will help convince your brain it’s time to sleep.
17. Wear a Sleep Bracelet. Rather than risk the side effects and hangovers associated with sleeping pills or alcohol, tune into the natural frequencies of the Earth with a Sleep Bracelet from Philip Stein for a gentle, natural way to ease into sleep. These stylish, comfortable pieces of wearable wellness harness the science of Natural Frequency Technology to align your body and mind with electromagnetic waves that enhance a sense of calm and help you sleep soundly. Especially when traveling, keeping your body in a natural rhythm that includes sound sleep can reduce stress, balance your mood and help you feel energized for the rest of your journey.
18. Moisturize. This one is for the guys as well as the gals. That airplane air is dry, dry, dry. Stash a small bottle of your favorite moisturizer in your jacket pocket or carry-on for a soothing swipe of moisture on your hands, lips and face, and you’ll feel less like a dried-out husk. Plus, moisturizers scented with citrus or mint can give you a quick hit of mood-boosting aroma therapy to counteract the often unpleasant odors of a crowded flight.
19. Hydrate. Drink water like it’s your job. Literally. You will not be sorry. Just as your skin is drying out from the airplane environment, the rest of your body is crying out for hydration. Those salty pretzels, the in-flight meal and the increased altitude all combine to rob your body of H2O. Diligently resupplying non-alcoholic fluids will increase your energy and sense of well-being while minimizing the agony of jet lag.
20. Get up and move around. A trip to the bathroom every hour or so from all the water you’re consuming will stretch your legs and revitalize your circulation. Numerous studies have outlined how the dangers of being stationary for too long, particularly in combination with other factors like medications or medical history, can increase the risk of blood clots or other serious problems. Moving around at regular intervals is the best way to minimize these risks and ensure a healthy, comfortable and fun trip.