The Key to Stress-Free Travel
If you struggle with stress or anxiety, then putting yourself in a situation with a lot of unknowns and variables — like traveling — can potentially be a tricky situation. I know firsthand because I’ve dealt with anxiety for a long time; though it’s seared its hand upon my life, I try my best to not let it impede me from doing things I really want to do, like going to new places.
Traveling should be a fun, exciting experience — a time when happy memories are made, new cities are explored, and vacation time is treasured. No one wants to be bogged down by the unfortunate stressor that is anxiety. Instead, you should be enjoying your time. Making flights on time, packing the right stuff (and enough stuff!), and worrying about external factors are all things that can sometimes be out of your control; all things you a traveler might worry about. So what can you do to minimize tension and pressure in uncertain situations?
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Organization is key. I tend to worry less about forgetting or misplacing things if I know exactly where the important things are. I can’t panic about losing my boarding pass if it’s downloaded to my phone. If my phone is in my back pocket, I can feel it and don’t freak out about leaving it in the car. And if my chargers are all in order, wrapped up, and accessible in a carry-on pocket, then I have less chance of agonizing over where they are and if I forgot them or not.
Do your research.
There is inexplicable fun in traveling someplace new and just winging it but personally, I feel calmer en route when I have some semblance of an idea where to go, where to stay, and what to do. I’m not knocking totally impromptu trips and decisions; I just know that an outline usually makes me panic less. A simple Pinterest, Instagram, or Google search is a great way to learn more about the area you’re off to. Foursquare is also great for searching the area and learning more about it. When I traveled to Portland last summer, I was game for sporadic restaurant and bar decisions — and found some unforgettable spots that way — but I was armed with a few recommendations from people who had been before. That made me feel like I had a better handle on what was coming my way and that I had a plan to fall back on.
Download apps beforehand.
I know, I know, like you need another app on your already overloaded phone. If I anticipate traveling, I download the essentials days before I start my journey. Definitely download the app for your airline — it makes things so much easier should your flight get delayed or cancelled and it will notify you if your gate changes. Additionally, it’s easier to check in on an app versus having to check in online and print out a boarding pass. If you don’t have access to a car, definitely download Uber, Lyft, or Juno beforehand. If you’ll be using public transportation, look into any MTA, railroad, or other public transportation apps you may need.
Check in early… and don’t check a bag.
Hit that check-in button ASAP, meaning as soon as you’re able to. Usually, check-in for a flight is 24-hours before the flight takes off, so set an alarm on your phone to remind you to do it on time. This will ensure you get on your flight at earliest convenience and it will make your life easier in the long run. If you can avoid it, don’t check a bag. Just don’t do it. Please. Unless you’re going on vacation for a super, super long time, become a packing expert and stow everything in one carry-on bag. It’s better. It’s less complicated. It’s one less thing to fret over.
Anticipate the security process.
Don’t be one of those people who buries their laptop in the deepest, darkest part of their suitcase and has to perform complex archaeology to extract it. Keep it in an accessible pocket of your carry-on so that when it’s your turn to submit to the security process, it won’t be a hassle to extricate it. Wear slip-on shoes but make sure you wear socks too, otherwise when you have to take your shoes off for security, you’ll be standing barefoot with your flip-flops in hand, paranoid about what kind of diseases your toes could be soaking up from the floor. Basically, security sucks and it’s going to be annoying, so instead of being unprepared, plan ahead.
Anything purchased inside of the airport, beyond security is fair game to bring on the plane. But I’ve also never had an issue bringing a bag of sealed nuts, a banana, or granola bars. Snacks and food inside the airport are notorious for being pricey, so packing a few things to nosh on might save your vacation budget a few extra bucks.
Don’t forget a water bottle.
Preferably a reusable water bottle. Fill it up after you go through security so you have an extra drink on the plane, other than the complimentary one. If it’s fill of water before the security line, officers will have you dump it.
Take carry-on items out before taking off.
Sitting down on the plane and getting comfortable, only to realize the novel, the coloring book, or the headphones you really wanted during the flight are tucked and locked away in a difficult-to-access compartment is such an annoying feeling. Forgo this mistake by making sure you have everything you need and want before you buckle in and before the flight takes off.