Air travel in the post 9/11 era doesn’t have to be stressful. Even though airlines seem to be doing everything in their power to make flying even more frustrating, there are simple things you can do to make your trip as relaxing and enjoyable as possible.
Book Early and Select Your Seats In Advance
Booking your flights as early as you possibly can generally assures you pay the lowest fares and get the seats you prefer. Let’s face it, getting to the airport on time, checking your luggage and going through security is stressful enough without having to wait on another line at the gate only to wind up with a “middle” seat in the rear of the plane. Getting electronic tickets, seat assignments and boarding passes in advance helps you reduce stress by letting you go “straight to the gate”.
Dress With Security In Mind
Dressing and packing smartly can make the difference between breezing through security or going through a lot of unnecessary time and aggravation.
Since TSA (Transportation Security Administration) regulations now require that you take off your shoes before passing through the metal detector, be sure to wear shoes without laces, zippers or metal fasteners. This allows you to easily slip out of your footwear and put it back on without a lot of fuss and bother. If you absolutely need to wear dress shoes with laces or winter boots with zippers, keep them in your carry-on bag until you reach the next leg of your trip or your final destination.
Belts with big buckles, big clunky metal jewelry and other metallic accessories are likely to set off the metal detectors and force you to go through a more extensive security screening. So keep your accessories simple. You can always carry your more ornate furnishings with you and accessorize yourself before you reach your final destination.
Dress Comfortably and Casually
Carrying luggage, running through airports and trying to sit comfortably in those undersized airline seats will be easier and much less stressful if you aren’t wearing a suit and tie or a fitted skirt and high heel shoes. Dressing as casually, comfortably and sensibly as you can makes you feel much more relaxed throughout your trip.
Know What You Can’t Take With You
The TSA (Transportation Security Administration) prohibits passengers from carrying certain items in their carry on luggage. Knowing what not to pack can save a lot of time and stress when going through airport security.
You can obtain a list of items you cannot pack in your carry on and checked luggage at the TSA’s official web site www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/prohibited/permitted-prohibited-items.shtm#4. This list is updated regularly and the TSA will notify you of any changes, if you provide them with your email address where requested on their web site.
Remember, however, that the TSA has the right to ban and confiscate any item that they deem may pose a threat to security, even if it’s not on their list.
Items you should not pack in your carry on bags include scissors, knives, pocket knives, certain types of razor blades and cigarette lighters. Hammers, saws, axes, screwdrivers and tools 7 inches in length or longer, gel shoe inserts, firearms and fireworks also may not be carried on board the aircraft.
In addition, sporting enthusiasts should note that golf clubs, ski poles, bows and arrows, hockey and lacrosse sticks, baseball bats, spear guns, and pool cues are not allowed on the aircraft and must be checked with your luggage before going through security.
There are also constantly changing restrictions on the size and type of personal care products you can transport in your carry on luggage. Aerosol cans including deodorants and shaving cream are currently prohibited. Restrictions also apply to the size and type of bottles containing perfume and cologne, shampoo and conditioner, skin cleansers and other personal care products.
As a rule of thumb, pack only travel-size personal care products in your carry on luggage. Put them in clear plastic cosmetic bags to simply inspection when you go through security. It’s better to be safe and check the TSA web site before you pack.
Being A Frequent Flyer Pays Off
Flying an airline where you are a member of their frequent flyer program can offer you additional advantages that can make your flight more comfortable.
Most airlines usually offer preferred seating such as bulk head, exit row and forward cabin seating to members of their frequent flyer program. Getting a seat with more leg room in the forward part of the cabin definitely makes your flight more comfortable and getting on and off the plane a lot less stressful. Many airlines also offer pre-boarding for frequent flyers.
Traveling on an airline where you’re a frequent flyer may also entitle you to a first class upgrade. Naturally, the more miles you’ve flown on the airline, the better your chances for an upgrade.
If you miss a flight, the airline cancels your flight, or you need to fly stand by to get on an earlier or fully-booked flight, being a frequent flyer on the airline really pays off. Frequent flyer status is one of the criteria airlines use in determining stand by priority and in finding you another flight if your original one was missed or canceled.
Membership in frequent flyer programs is free and can help make air travel less stressful, so be sure you’re a frequent flyer for every airline you regularly fly.
Allow Ample Time For Connections
Unless you only fly between major airports in major cities, chances are, you’ll be making one or more connecting flights as part of most of your trips. Connections can either make your journey a nightmare and add to your stress, or help make it more relaxing and enjoyable.
Many travelers, especially those traveling for business, book flights with the shortest connection times between flights so they can arrive at their destination faster. Unfortunately, not leaving enough time between connecting flights very often results in a missed connection, and arriving at your destination later than planned and totally stressed out.
Bad weather, heavy passenger volume, airport congestion, delays on the runways, equipment problems and numerous other factors create delays and can cause you to miss your connecting flight. So why go through all the stress of rushing to make a connecting flight, and possibly missing the flight and arriving at your destination hours later than planned.
Always leave at least an hour between flights. This will help de-stress the process of making your connection and allow you to relax, grab a bite to eat or get a little work done.
Chill Between Connecting Flights
Lay overs between connecting flights, if properly planned, offer you a chance to relax, unwind and de-stress. Most major airports now offer a variety of different restaurants and bars including fast food burger joints, popular chain restaurants, fine dining establishments and a wide variety of bars and food kiosks. Kiosks serving quick pre-made salads and sandwiches as well diverse international food such as sushi, crepes, and tacos offer an alternative for travelers on the run.
If you’re not in the mood for wining and dining, many airports now have shopping arcades offering clothing, gift and jewelry boutiques, computer and electronics stores, book shops, and an array of other retail outlets selling everything from cosmetics and fragrances to household gadgets.
An increasing number of airports are also offering other amenities including massage therapy, hair and nail salons, and even video arcades that can help make your trip less stressful. Free Wi-Fi or low cost internet-access stations are now available in most airports, so you can plug-in to check your email, surf the web, or chat with some friends in between flights.
Even smaller airports are now offer a variety of dining and drinking options, traveler amenities and other ways to relax and unwind between flights. The secret to success is allowing enough time between connecting flights to take it easy and just chill.
Carry Creature Comforts On Board
Airline seats are uncomfortable, to say the least. Many passengers find that a small neck pillow helps them relax and take a nap during their flight. These pillows usually cost under $20 at airport gift shops and at drug and department stores, and they’re well worth the investment.
Stereo earphones are great for shutting out aircraft engine noise, crying babies and talkative passengers. Bring your I Pod or MP3 player so you can plug into your favorite music too. Most airlines now sell earphones that connect into the plane’s sound system. They cost just for a few dollars and you can use them again on other flights.
Many people find reading to be a great way to relax and unwind. If you’re one of them, bring along a good book or a magazine to read. Most airlines don’t carry the library of magazines they once did, so don’t expect to find much to read onboard.
Laptop computers offer another great way to de-stress yourself during flights, especially long ones. Many major airlines now offer free inflight Wi-Fi, so you can surf the web, watch videos or play online games. Even if you’re traveling for pleasure, laptops are a necessity.
Since airlines no longer serve food on most flights, you can bring your own foods, snacks and beverages on board to enjoy. Just remember that the food or beverage has to be purchased in the airport after you clear security. Passengers are not allowed to bring any bottled liquids … even water … through the security check point.
A Smile Goes A Long Way
Attitude is everything. The airlines do everything they can to get you to your final destination safely and on or close to schedule. With a little planning and a positive attitude, you can make getting there on time more enjoyable and stress free.