My husband and I love each other, and we love traveling, but there are some aspects of travel that can test the bounds of that love. For us, the most challenging part of any trip is getting there, especially if air travel is involved. Once we’re at our destination, we can relax and begin enjoying each other’s company again. We recently discussed this, with the goal of making air travel less onerous. Here are some of the things that cause the most stress for one or the other, or both, of us, plus the steps we take to reduce that stress:
- Crowds: We both hate them, but I can navigate them better, so I take charge and find the paths of least resistance. My husband finds this more challenging, so we hold hands to be sure we don’t lose each other as I weave my way through. It may not reduce the amount of the stress, but it does reduce the duration.
- Noise: This is especially stressful for me, and I can (usually do) become very short-tempered. We used to go to a restaurant for a drink and/or a meal, but for me, that just concentrated the noise into a small place. We agreed to spend a little bit more to visit an airport lounge, where we could both relax.
- Slowly moving lines: I think we can all agree that the security line is the worst. We signed up for Global Entry a few years ago, which also confers TSA Precheck privileges. The Precheck line moves much more quickly than the regular lines. We usually don’t have to take our shoes, belts or jackets off (unless there is a lot of metal on them). We don’t have to remove our electronics or liquids from our bags (3-1-1 liquids rule still applies).
- Last-minute changes or delays: Not much we can do about this, but we can check the departures board for gate changes. We’ve also signed up for flight notifications from the airline, and have the airline’s app on our smart phones (which also tracks our bags so we know when they’ve hit baggage claim). If the delay is weather-related, the airline has no obligation to provide meal or hotel vouchers. If the delay is mechanical, they may provide vouchers, but you probably have to ask for them. Ask the gate agent for regular updates, but be aware that he/she might not really know what’s going on or how long it will take. If you can get on an alternative flight, take it! Just remember that people with connecting flights will get priority. The airline may have a rule regarding how long to wait before bringing in another airplane (ask the gate agent about this). We were on a flight recently that was delayed for eight hours before the airline decided to bring in another plane. Do be patient and polite with the gate agent. It’s not his/her fault that the flight is delayed. If you want to be treated with respect and consideration, remember it’s a two-way street.
Other things we do to make the flight easier:
- Purchase the highest class of service we can afford. Granted, this eats into the travel budget, so it might mean we skimp somewhere else. We are more willing to take a lower class of service for a short flight, two hours or less. If you need or want to recline, make sure your seats have that capability (some exit row seats don’t). If you want to keep your carry-ons handy even during takeoff, stay away from bulkhead. The website Seat Guru gives passenger reviews of seats on the airplane. Simply enter your airline, flight number, and date to pull up a seat map. Stay away from red colored seats as they are considered bad. For those colored yellow (be aware there are some issues), or a combination of yellow/green, click on the seat to read the comments. Green are considered good, and white are standard.
- Board as early as allowed. This allows us time to get settled in before the lines back up. Also, it’s much easier to find space for our carry-on bags if we’re among the early boarders.
- Purchase bottled water or fill our own after security. I get very dehydrated on flights, and I don’t want to wait for a small glass of water when I’m thirsty.
- Bring a few snacks in case we do encounter a delay, and don’t want to purchase what the flight has on board.
- Load movies, e-books, television shows on your smartphone, iPad or other tablet. Bring your own headsets (you can always use them to discourage an overly chatty person sitting next to you, or muffle the wails of a crying baby). Make sure the movie or show can be watched off-line. Netflix streaming service, iTunes and Google Play have that option (and there are certainly others). Just be sure you have downloaded or activated them while you still have access to WIFI.
- We haven’t traveled with babies for many years, but I do recommend bringing a bottle to give them when the airplane is climbing or beginning its landing procedure. Sucking on the bottle will help your baby’s ears equalize, reducing any discomfort (plus it keeps baby hydrated). A pacifier can work well too. For children over age 3, bring some chewing gum.
- Finally, grin and bear it!