We’ve recently covered how you can lower your chances of booking an ultimately cancelled flight and what to do if you’re in that predicament. But what about if everything goes right? After planning and packing, you just want the beginning of your trip to be as stress-free as possible. Airports aren’t exactly famous for their relaxing atmospheres, so what can you do to make it less intimidating?
At the Airport
The first step to easing your way into vacation is at the airport itself. Millions of people are there every day, and it often seems like everyone is in a hurry. Here are a few ways you can avoid being on a time crunch.
Sign Up for TSA Precheck or Global Entry
While you need to sign up for these in advance, TSA PreCheck and Global Entry are two popular Trusted Traveler Programs run by the Department of Homeland Security. TSA PreCheck expedites the security process in U.S. airports. Global Entry includes TSA PreCheck and speeds up the Customs process when traveling internationally. They cost $85 and $100, respectively, for five-year memberships and have minor security hoops to jump through. They can be incredibly worth it if you plan to travel even semi-regularly. You’ll want to do them ahead of time since PreCheck can take a few weeks — and Global Entry, a few months — to be approved.
Perfect Airport Parking
Like most things at the airport, parking your car can be tense. You can alleviate some concerns with two quick tricks. First, most airports allow you to reserve your parking ahead of time. You can also pay ahead of time, which sometimes gets you a cheaper rate.
Once you actually park the car, take a photo of the spot and the car. This way, you know where your car is parked, and you can show the condition your car was left in. Should your car be damaged while you’re away, you’ll be able to prove the damage wasn’t caused by you.
Give Yourself Time
Get to the airport early to avoid feeling rushed. The standard advice is two hours for domestic flights, three hours for international, though giving yourself more time won’t hurt. You can further save yourself time by checking in to your flight before you get to the airport. Most airlines allow you to check-in up to 24 hours before your flight. Finally, if you can, pack lightly. If you only need a carry-on, this can save you time by not waiting in line to check your bags.
Make Security Easier
The security process at airports is necessary but can also take up one of the biggest chunks of your time. The best thing you can do is speed up your portion of the process.
Here are a few things you can do:
- Know all security rules so you can move through quickly.
- Wear security-friendly clothes, like easily removed shoes and no belt.
- Have all necessary documents ready.
- Put liquids and electronics at the top of your carry-on.
Explore Airport Lounges or Services
If you don’t mind spending a little extra money, many airlines and airports offer services that speed you through the security process and even handle your bags. Once you’re through security, you can also pamper yourself by finding a lounge, which offers food and nicer accommodations while you wait for your flight. You can get access to lounges by having special credit cards, service memberships, or by paying for one-time access.
On the Plane
Planes have their own issues. They can be cramped, don’t allow for a lot of movement, and can leave you in an uncomfortable position. Of course, you can always upgrade to a higher cabin, like business or first class. However, if you want to save yourself some money for your trip, there are a few ways you can make your flight more enjoyable.
Strategically Pick Your Seat
If your flight allows you to pick your seat, do so with your needs in mind. You have a few choices to make, each with their own advantage. An aisle seat has more leg room and makes it easier to move about the cabin. The window seat gives you a view and a wall to lean on should you want to sleep.
There are also different types of seats that you may need to pay more for but could be worth it. Some seats have extra legroom, either because they are at the front of a cabin or because they’re behind a two-seat row. A two-seat row may be ideal for a couple traveling, as you won’t have to share the row with anyone else. Depending on your needs, these considerations can take a standard seat and make it great for you. Websites like SeatGuru can help you research your options.
Invest in a Plane-Sleep Kit
Sleeping on a plane can be incredibly difficult since you can’t always control the environment. A sleep kit often includes a neck pillow, blanket, ear plugs, and mask. You can also buy each item separately.
Prepare Your Own Entertainment
While you can rely on the in-flight consoles, if you have a tablet, smartphone, or laptop, you can curate your own flight entertainment. If you subscribe to any streaming services like Netflix, HBO Max, or Prime Video, you can usually download movies and TV shows. Watch what you want without paying for WiFi on the plane!
Use the Bathroom Before Boarding
Try to limit your trips to the bathroom on the plane. It’s kinder to the people you’re sharing a row with, and it’ll make it so that you’re not uncomfortably holding your bladder while you wait for the bathroom. Trust us, even if you’re not sure you have to use the bathroom before boarding, do yourself a favor and try.
Sanitize Your Space
Airplanes can be dirty. The crew often doesn’t have enough time to deep clean between flights, so they’ll do what they can. This can leave a lot that’s still not as clean as you’d want it. Even before COVID-19, which helped increase the cleanliness standards, it was a good idea to wipe down your area with a sanitizer wipe. It remains true today. You don’t know what the person in your seat before you was doing or their hygiene habits. With that thought in mind, take a second and sanitize your seat and tray.
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Travel should be a fun, enriching experience, but we’ve all heard or had nightmare experiences that can sour our memories of an otherwise great trip. With our simple tips, we hope your next trip is as stress-free and enjoyable as possible!