Tips to Make Your Summer Airline Travel Less Stressful

Tips to Make Your Summer Airline Travel Less Stressful

Plan to travel by air this summer? Here are some tips to make your experience less stressful during what may be the busiest season on record.

Tips to Make Your Summer Airline Travel Less Stressful

If it seems like everyone in the country is going somewhere this summer, it might be because they are!

The Atlanta Journal Constitution, from the city that hosts the largest airport in the US, reports that 82% of adults in America plan to travel during the summer of 2024. Of that number, 52% are planning to fly to and from their destination. Many sources are predicting this summer will see a 6.3% increase in air travel, surpassing the record numbers that were set in 2023. Airlines have responded by scheduling approximately 26,000 flights per day – up nearly 1,400 a day from last summer.

With such astonishing numbers, air travelers can pretty much count on large crowds at the airports, longer lines for security, and possible delays or cancellations. Add that to rising prices for tickets and bag fees, a decline in common courtesy among your fellow passengers, and the scene is set for an anxiety-producing trip.

So what can you do to make your experience less stressful?

Bob says, “Drive!” But that doesn’t always guarantee a peaceful trip either. The last road trip we made included frustrations with slower-than-the-speed-limit or road-raging drivers, construction back-ups and rain storm deluges. So I’m not sure driving is less stressful. In my opinion, at least the discomfort is shorter when you fly.

I still travel fairly often for work and personal trips, and other members of our family travel more often than me. So we have had a little experience over the years. Here are some tips we have learned:

Give Yourself Plenty of Margin

  • If it is absolutely crucial to be at your destination by a certain date, give yourself a day – or a couple of days – of extra time to get there. Airlines are trying their absolute hardest to get every plane off the ground on time. Flight crews and ground support don’t want your flight to be delayed or cancelled any more than you do. But sometimes things happen that are beyond their control. Like weather. Or maintenance issues. Or a staff illness or emergency. You will be much more understanding and patient if you allow time for unforeseen circumstances.
  • Gone are the days when you could arrive at the airport an hour before your flight and run to the gate just before the doors closed. The process of checking a bag, getting through security, and actually boarding the plane takes time. A lot of time. If you want to do it without added stress, allow more time than you think you’ll need. I’d much rather wait at the gate for a while in peace than be frantically trying get there, worried I’m not going to make it.
  • If you travel often, consider paying for TSA PreCheck or Clear to enable you to get through the security line faster.
  • If you have to go through the regular security line, be prepared before you get to the checkpoint. Have your boarding pass and ID in hand when you approach the officer. Make sure you remove your jacket and belt, empty your pockets, take your quart bag of liquids and/or devices larger than a cellphone out of your carry-on, and be ready to remove your shoes. If you are carrying food items, it’s also advisable to have them in a separate clear bag so you can easily place them into the bin if advised to do so. (Note that if you are over the age of 75, you are exempt from removing your shoes and jacket.)

Pack Lightly

Sometimes it’s unavoidable, and you have to bring more than one piece of luggage. But you can often get by with a lot less than you think you need. If at all possible, don’t check a bag when you’re flying. If all you have is a carry-on, you’ll skip a large part of the time and hassle it takes to get through the airport. And use the smallest carry-on and personal items you can, too. You will be able to move much more freely through airports and to and from wherever you’re staying with less luggage. (You’ll thank me for this if you need to run to catch a connecting flight!) Smaller carry-on items will also be easier to fit in the overhead bins or under the seat, making it less stressful during boarding.

Here’s a special note regarding one of my biggest pet peeves while traveling: Pay attention to the space around you! I prefer to sit on the aisle, but that means I am constantly being knocked about during boarding. People are often completely oblivious to their backpack swinging around behind them, or their oversized bag banging into the people they are passing. Have some consideration for the people around you, for crying out loud! Okay, rant over…

Bring Snacks and a Water Bottle

I always keep something like a small pack of nuts, a protein bar, or an apple in my handbag while traveling. You never know when you might be delayed, or you end up arriving at your hotel later than planned. Carrying a snack has saved me numerous times when I didn’t have any way to get food.

Likewise, I carry a refillable water bottle on every trip. Pretty much every airport and most hotels have refilling stations. I make sure to fill my bottle after I’ve gone through security and before I board the plane. Then I’m not dying of thirst if takeoff is delayed or the flight attendants aren’t able to do an inflight service. I also refill the bottle when I land to insure I have water to drink on the ride to the hotel and in my room.

Something as simple as having food and water can make a major difference in your travel experience.

Carry an Emergency Kit

It only took one time when my bag didn’t make it to my destination to learn this lesson. Whenever I travel, I bring a small emergency kit in my carry-on with what I need to function for one day. If my checked bag gets lost, or my flight is cancelled and the airline puts me up in a hotel overnight, I can at least feel refreshed.

My emergency kit is just a small bag. It contains a chemise to sleep in, a change of underthings, and a clean, wrinkle-free top for the next day. I also carry the minimal amount of toiletries and beauty products I need to take a shower and apply my makeup.

You decide the absolute must-haves to include in your emergency kit. But it doesn’t matter if you travel frequently or just once in a while–you’ll be extremely glad you have this if you ever need it!

Find Your Quiet Place (Whatever That Means for You)

When I travel, I tend to retreat inside myself and disconnect from everything around me. It’s my way of managing the stress. Bob isn’t like this. He used to want to chat while we were standing in lines or waiting at the gate. I’d get annoyed with him, which made him upset with me. I eventually identified that about myself. I was able to talk to him about it, and we came to an understanding.

While you’re traveling, it’s important to find your quiet place. That could be a physical location, like an empty gate away from the crowds. Or maybe it’s a mental thing, like listening to music or meditating. Find out what you need to do to disengage from the chaos around you and make your experience less stressful.

Ask for Compassion for the People Around You

This last tip has been a life changer. Everyone I talk to agrees that travel has changed drastically since 2020. One of the most unpleasant effects has been the way people seem to have lost all sense of courtesy. Almost every time I travel, I see entitled, selfish, and downright rude behavior.

It used to upset me and take away my peace. But I’ve gained some wisdom now. When I feel myself getting riled up about people’s behavior, I say a quick prayer. I ask God to give me His heart of love for those around me. It’s really quite amazing what a difference it makes in my attitude. Instead of being annoyed, I feel compassion for my fellow travelers.

Being Kind Makes Everyone’s Travel Less Stressful!

We are all in the same boat (so to speak) when traveling. So we should be kind to one another. When I offer to help someone with their carry-on, or try to be encouraging to that person who’s acting like a jerk, I feel a whole lot better in every way.

And please, please, please – be respectful of and courteous to airline employees. Their jobs are far more difficult and demanding than most of us know. They are working hard for you to have the most stress-free and pleasant experience possible. You can make their day just by saying thank you. (Chocolates or a Starbucks gift card go even further to make them feel appreciated!)

Have you found any tips that help make your travel experience less stressful? Be sure to share them with us in the comments below!

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