Many things improve with age; airline travel is not one of them. Even before increased airport security slowed things down, the flying experience was loaded with stress-inducing delays and rude behavior. Frequent flyers just grit their teeth and bear it as best they can, but a bit of pre-planning can improve the quality of the experience enormously.
Since I spend part of every month traveling by air, I try to make my flights an exercise in creative time management. I don’t always succeed in arriving at my destination as cool and relaxed as I might wish, but I have noticed that I survive better than many of my fellow passengers who stagger off the plane looking as if they had just endured an ordeal from which they might never recover.
How can you avoid an exhausting flight? Here are some simple things that can make a big difference in lowering the stress and hassles of airline travel.
° Be considerate of your fellow passengers. Sounds obvious to me, but considering the number of folks I see who seem oblivious to others, this one needs mentioning. My personal pet peeve is people seated in the back of the plane who fill the front overhead bins with their luggage so they don’t have to carry it so far. Later boarders, assigned to the front seats, have no place to stow their stuff. That’s both annoying and rude. Equally irritating are portable video games that produce sounds when they’re played. Cramped airplanes, indifferent service and bad food are annoyances enough. Don’t be part of the problem, if you can help it. Your fellow passengers are not your adversaries, after all. Think of your flight as a perfect place to practice putting the Golden Rule into action.
° Come prepared to amuse yourself. I’m often surprised by the tacky books I seen my flying companions reading, books hastily purchased at the airport gift shop. If you know you have a couple of hours that would be ideal for reading, why not be selective and use it to read something worthwhile? Don’t depend on airline magazines or in-flight movies to keep you occupied, either. Many airlines have eliminated both magazines and movies on domestic flights
° Carry a snack. Even on short flights, you may be overcome with hunger. Depending on the airport to provide food can be dicey. It’s worth the extra trouble to bring something healthy along. Dried fruit, nuts and crackers are great portable snacks. Once a year, I eat an airport hot dog. That cures me of neglecting to carry my own provisions. With all the other stresses you’re going to encounter on a trip, it makes sense to take control of your eating so hunger or bad nutrition don’t add to the strain.
° Simplify, simplify. It’s astonishing to see the amount of stuff people drag along when they travel. If you travel regularly, keep a toiletry bag stocked. You might also have underwear, nightwear, a hairdryer and an umbrella stowed in your suitcase ready to go. Pare your travel wardrobe to the bare minimum and refuse to pack anything “just in case”. I also suggest that you proudly carry cheap luggage. The expensive stuff doesn’t survive baggage handling any better than the bargain bags so if you’re going to have to replace it regularly, spend as little as possible to begin with.
° Be more than a traveler. Having something exciting to look forward to can lower the irritation encountered getting there. Once you’ve arrived, be creative about the way you’ll spend your time at your destination. While it’s not always possible to indulge yourself on every trip, anticipating at least one special pleasure at trip’s end will have a positive impact on your attitude—which is the most important weapon you have for combating whatever unpleasant surprises you encounter on the way.
Those who never venture into the world don’t have many stories to tell. ~ Annette Simmons