Growing up, my family tended to choose stateside vacations rather than globetrotting getaways. We’d pack our car to the brim with snacks and necessities, making frequent freeway stops on the way from San Diego to the beach or natural parks like Yosemite, Lake Powell, and the Colorado River.
When we did plan any trip that required a flight, my mom would drive to the airport at least four hours early. If it was an early morning flight, we’d spend the night at a hotel nearby the airport. Flying quickly became associated with stress. Fortunately, I no longer have that sense of unease before every flight after fine-tuning my before and after flight routines. If you’re easily stressed when it comes to flying, these are my long haul flight tips for making the journey as organized and relaxed as possible.
Dwindle Your Decisions
Decision fatigue is when the brain becomes irrational and exhausted after making a series of decisions. Whether we realize it or not, the transportation part of travel requires an abundance of necessary decisions. What should I pack? How will I get to the airport? Will my luggage fit in the car? What time do I arrive? What visas do I need? The list goes on and on.
To cut down on the decisions I need to make before a flight, I’ve developed a series of routines. The fewer decisions you need to make on the day of departure, the less stressed you’ll be. You can help this by packing and arranging transport to the airport in advance so that on the day of the flight, you simply have to leave on time.
For domestic flights, try to arrive at least one and a half hours before departure. For international journeys, two hours is ideal. Arriving early helps relieve any stress that comes with last minute gate or flight changes, and it’ll give you time to shuffle the items in your luggage just in case one of your bags is overweight.
Plan Your Outfit Accordingly
I wear the same exact outfit for every flight, no matter if I’m off on a five hour journey or a twelve hour one. I wear comfortable leggings with pockets, a T-shirt, and a cozy jacket with zip pockets. Having plenty of pockets–especially ones that zip shut–ensure that there’s plenty of space for me to stash my wallet, passport, boarding pass, and phone in between check in and arriving at my gate. Zip-shut pockets keep things from falling out as I rummage through my suitcase or take off my jacket for security. I pack a lightweight scarf in my carry-on bag just in case the flight is chilly.
Prepare Your Carry-On Bag
Most flights allow passengers to board a flight with one carry-on bag and one personal item. I pack a small kit with a toothbrush, toothpaste, face lotion, hand sanitizer, ear plugs, and snacks in my personal item bag, typically a small backpack. My laptop, power bank, and phone are charged the night before, with shows and podcasts already downloaded for offline listening. I also bring along an empty water bottle and ask the flight attendant to fill it as full as possible on the first round of drinks. That way, I’m not at the mercy of the drinks cart and don’t have to pester the staff every time I need a sip of water.
Follow an Arrival Routine
I don’t feel anxious about arriving in a new destination thanks to a set routine that I follow each time I fly. Before my trip, I plan my first night’s accommodation and I research the best way to get there from the airport. I download a map of the area that can be used offline called Maps.me, so that I know I’m heading in the right direction from the start. I also collect a bit of cash and make my first priority getting a phone SIM card with internet data. This ensures I can change plans and research on the fly.
What tips do you have for being a relaxed and stress-free traveler?