For the past 6-7 years I’ve been traveling a lot (about 90 days a year). So, it is only natural that I became better and better at coping with travel related stress. And when I say better I mean I discovered the tricks that minimize the stress associated with travel. Let’s face it: unless you work as pilot or something like this you are a lot more interested in what awaits you once you got off the plane than what you experienced during the flight.
So here are some tips in no particular orders.
1. Check-in online. Always!
Unless you always travel business or first class you should check-in online as soon as possible. Sometimes it is possible to choose the seats at booking time. But you should always be able to choose seats when checking-in online.
My personal preference is to get isle seats front of the plane. This way I can get in and out fast.
If you check-in online and you only have cabin luggage, than you can get to the airport as late as just 30 minutes before taking-off (at least here in Europe). This is handy when you have heavy traffic or you just over-slept.
2. Travel light
It takes lot of discipline and/or experience to pack only the things you really need. But once you start doing this you will get back precious time. The goal here is to not check in any luggage. This means that you don’t spend time waiting for your luggages nor being stressed out because your luggage didn’t make it to your final destination.
Tripit has mobile apps for all smartphones. It helps you to keep the most important aspects of your travel neatly organized and literally at your finger tip: a quick glance tell you when is your next flight, what airport terminal, what hotel and address you have to get to.
What’s eve more cool is that you can forward the booking confirmation you got from your airline or hotel to “firstname.lastname@example.org” and have the trip automatically added to your profile (you just have to send it from the email address you set for your Tripit account).
Personally, I set a rule in my email client to automatically forward all confirmations to Tripit.
If you’re using an iPhone you should give Passbook a try (I am sure Android users have something similar). Passbook keeps a virtual boarding pass at your finger tip: even if your phone is locked, a quick swipe on the Passbook notification icon will display the boarding pass. In most European airports this is all you need to get through the security and to board the aircraft.
If you haven’t use it, you should know that in order to get a boarding pass into the app you actually have to use the air company mobile app to do the check in and once completed you should have the option to add the boarding pass to Passbook.
5. Best headset you can afford
Once you get onboard one of the biggest source of stress is the noise – engine and people. The only thing you can do to protect against this is to buy yourself a nice headset that has noise cancelation.
I’m using a Bose pair. It does an amazing job in keeping out the engine noise but the build quality is not the best. The fabric that covers the speakers can fall apart after less than two years.
6. Get on a frequent flyer program
If you fly frequently enough it makes sense to apply to a frequent flyer program. Do your research well and choose wise. You should know that not all programs are equal.
Once you accumulated enough miles to get status (silver, gold, platinum) you are going to enjoy benefits like: priority check-in, priority boarding, priority security check in, better seats & on-board service, free or miles-paid upgrades to the next class, free additional luggage allowance, improved customer service.
It might not look like much, but these things save you time (because you spend less time in line for example) and help minimize the stress. In case your flight gets canceled or delayed due to bad weather or some other unexpected incidents trust me when I say that if you have status the ground personnel will do their best to send you to your destination. When there are only 20 seats left in that other plane it’s really sweet to be on the VIP list. Most of the time they will not charge additional fees.
Another benefit of having status is that you get access to the airline’s airport lounges. If you are like most people thinking that this is great because of the free meals or drinks than you are wrong. It is about having a quiet environment for working or relaxing; it is about having cleaner rest rooms than the airport averages (including showers). The public restaurants or lounges are sometimes so noisy that you may regret you have ears; and don’t even get me started on rest rooms.
There are other things you can do but those are more a personal thing than general public advices. The last advice I have for you is that to polite and firm when you have to argue with the ground/airplane personnel. They have to deal with assholes every day; you have better chances to succeed with your request if you behave like a gentleman.
Of course this is true when you are not in a Ukrainian/Turkish airport :).