For many people warmer weather means travel. As fun as travel can be, just getting somewhere these days can be stressful for travel novices and seasoned road warriors alike. Some folks relish the adventure of a trek into unknown territory, but the mere idea of leaving home can cause anxiety to people who only feel safe sleeping in their own beds.
Whether you are a frequent business flyer, or the reluctant organizer of a family road trip, there are steps anyone can take to ease travel stress, and scads of products and services available to help you.
Start early, plan ahead, and give yourself plenty of time.
I am assuming most wilderness adventurers are not terribly stressed by the unexpected. So, most of these tips are for those of us who are more apt to relax if there is some order to our travel plans.
1. Making plane reservations early can save you money, and helps you avoid having to sit in a middle seat between two sumo wrestlers. Many airlines even show you a seating chart so you can pick exactly where you’d like to be.
2. Call ahead or check online to know what to expect at your hotel. Happily, most online hotel booking sites list whether their rooms have hair dryers, coffee pots, microwaves and the like. If your company has reserved a room for you at some remote lodge for a corporate meeting, call the hotel and ask about amenities, to avoid unpleasant surprises and pack what you need.
3. On departure day, give yourself plenty of time to make it to the airport or on the road, so you don’t feel rushed and out of breath just trying to get out of town. A few extra minutes wait at the gate can be used to meditate and calm yourself, or get started on some massive novel that you’ve been dying to read.
If this is your first road trip, consider joining an auto club.
The small fee you pay for an auto club membership can give you vastly more peace of mind, especially if you are headed down the road alone. As well as emergency services, many auto clubs will help you plan your route, recommend lodging, and offer discounts for hotels, restaurants and rental cars.
Road side emergency services can be used if you have a flat tire, dead battery, need a tow, or (true story) if your car decides to lock itself with the keys inside, while you step out to throw away a drink cup. Knowing there is someone you can call relieves the anxiety of “what if” situations, and lets you drive off with fewer things to stress about.
Take whatever you need to feel secure.
The common travel wisdom is to always travel light. That’s good advice, for the most part. But if the idea of new surroundings scares you, or you worry about facing a sea of unfamiliar germs, there are products that can make you more comfortable. A little extra weight in your luggage is much better than the weight of extra stress.
The omnipresent in-flight catalogue, Sky-Mall, has a website now, so you don’t have to wait to read it on your plane to see what you could have bought before take-off. Travel specific retailers like Travelsmith have both catalogues and a website offering things to make travel easier, and major retail stores and websites have travel related gear as well.
Here are only a few of the products designed to ease travel stress, some of which you might never even thought of:
o Sheet liners. Sort of like a silk sleeping bag, to keep you off the hotel sheets.
o Toilet seat covers, in small packs like tissues.
o Inflatable travel pillows for naps and foot rests to elevate your legs while flying.
o Quick dry micro-fiber clothing and undies, weigh less to pack, and let you wash them out easily every day.
o Solar cell phone chargers.
o Portable fresh air…a little gadget that hangs around your neck and filters the airplane air you breathe.
o Tiny packs of anti-bacterial wipes.
o Clothing with inner zip pockets to protect passports or cash.
o Small one cup coffee makers, for those of us who must have coffee to survive.
Some general tips for air travel:
1. Wear slip on shoes. While it can be amusing to watch some guy pull off his cowboy boots at the security check, slip-ons save you time and headaches. Thick soles clog style shoes also help elevate your feet a little while flying.
2. Don’t bring your own water bottles from home. Once you’ve opened a bottle of water they won’t let it through the security gate. Buy some once you’ve cleared the check-in, and keep plenty on hand as you fly.
3. Bring some prepackaged munchies. Granola bars and the like may not the healthiest thing in the world, but whatever you bring must be in sealed packaging, unless you buy it inside the gate. You can take prepared food on board if you buy it after the security check, but be aware that sandwiches with drippy condiments can be messy to eat, and the aroma can linger for hours.
4. Walk around the airport as much as you can while you are waiting before or between flights. The extended sitting on planes is tough on your legs’ circulation. So it is wise to stand or walk whenever you can.
I have been traveling one way or the other almost my entire life. I know that even when you are prepared, there can be horrible weather to get through, road construction, lost reservations and a hundred other inconveniences. But traveling can be an amazing addition to our lives. It broadens our horizons, and allows us to experience awe and wonder beyond anything we’d ever imagined.
Plus, travel helps us learn not to worry so much about things that don’t really matter. It can teach us to role with the punches and leave our stress behind.
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