As I write this post, I am sitting in the Boston airport, hoping my very delayed flight to San Francisco changes to only slightly delayed. Then again, I shouldn’t have expected anything less complicated when flying during Thanksgiving week. I also shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up that SFO would be cooperative (how is it that Boston in late fall has calm, sunny weather, but San Francisco is plagued with wind?) I love to travel, and I don’t mind flying, but boring, unanticipated waits at the airport make me realize how important it is to be prepared. I’ve been flying since I was in the womb, and over time, I’ve developed a routine that’s become second-nature to me. These tips keep me sane during what can often be hectic travel experiences:
1. Two plus one. No matter how long your flight is, delays are commonplace nowadays, and you don’t want to be stuck bored and agitated. I always bring at least two things to do on the plane, plus one backup. The backup can simply be another magazine or project to work on. Alternatively, bring your phone or computer charger so that when you’re draining your battery trying to keep yourself engaged while waiting for your flight, you don’t have to worry that fun time is limited.
2. Food first. Airport and airplane food not only tends to lead to the unhealthy side, but it’s also expensive. Even if you’re only taking an hour-long flight, the collective time it takes to travel to the airport, go through security, fly, and head to your final destination will be at least a few hours. Face it – you’re going to get hungry. I typically purchase a healthy sandwich or hearty salad from my favorite cafe on my way to the airport, plus a few dry snacks like nuts and granola bars. Planning ahead will help you not only save money, but also to make healthy decisions when hunger strikes (and you know it will).
3. Bring a bottle, keep a bottle. It always surprises me when I see so many people on planes who don’t drink any water. Sometimes on a six-hour flight! Airplanes are incredibly dehydrating, and it doesn’t help that we aren’t allowed to bring liquids in containers exceeding 3.4 ounces. The prices of bottled water at the airport are marked up so much, it can feel like you’re better off buying a beer. However, if you bring a large bottle of water with you to the airport and dump out any remaining water before you go through security, you can fill the bottle back up via a drinking fountain – for free! No excuse not to stay healthy and wealthy on your next trip.
4. Slather up. Water isn’t the only cure for dehydration while flying. Your skin needs love too! I find that when I fly, my hands tend to get super dry. Therefore, I always carry a travel-sized bottle of hand lotion in my carry-on, and I slather it on often. Keeping your skin and body hydrated will help you to look fresh when you land, instead of worn down.
5. Gate-check an extra bag. A lot of people hate the idea of paying for the airline to check their bag, so they only take carry-ons. However, once you’re through security, all those bags can be daunting (especially if you follow #6, below). One trick I’ve learned is that airlines often offer to gate-check bags for free. When the flight is full, there won’t be enough room in the overhead compartment. Use this to your advantage, and get rid of the baggage! You’ll have a much easier time getting on and off the plane, and you’ll be helping to make the boarding process go smoother.
6. Get moving. One thing I can’t stand is sitting in the airport waiting for my flight, then sitting on a plane for hours. Moving your body will keep you energized and break up the long period of rest (oftentimes in uncomfortable seats without adequate legroom!) I like to walk back and forth down the terminal before boarding. An added plus is all the bags you may be carrying will only help you to burn more calories. I also get up every hour or so during the flight to stretch and get my blood pumping. If your flight isn’t too early in the morning, try to get in a workout before heading to the airport – even just 15 minutes will do. Your body will thank you.
7. We’re all in the same boat. Lastly, flying can be hectic and people can be crazed, so it’s important to be nice. It sounds clichéd, but flight delays and other mishaps are not the fault of the airline personnel at the gate. Having a positive and grateful attitude will make everyone else calmer, and who knows, it may get you a free bag checked or an extra snack on the plane. Remember that you are not the only person affected by the many annoyances that occur when traveling. Don’t hate, commiserate (together)!
Safe travels today on the biggest travel day of the year! And have a very happy, food- and fun-filled Thanksgiving.