You’ve spent months planning the perfect vacation. But the time has finally come—your bags are all packed—and there are just a few obstacles standing between you and that white sandy beach of your dreams: an airport, tons of frustrating lines, and a 17-inch-wide seat.
Though you can’t erase TSA lines or make those airport seats any more comfortable, you can indeed develop a comprehensive strategy to make the frequently degrading experience of air travel something you actually enjoy and not dread. For help doing exactly that, read on—because we’ve compiled all of the genius tricks and hacks for making all of your trips way less miserable. And when you want to make those work trips a breeze, discover the 17 Rules of Stress-Free Business Travel.
Pack a Yoga Mat
If you wind up with a layover long enough to give you ample time to loaf, but too short to leave the airport, plan ahead and pack a yoga mat. There are mats specifically for traveling that are much thinner than a traditional yoga mat and fold up, rather than rolling into a cumbersome cylinder.
Use your time between flights to stretch your shoulders, hamstrings, and hips, and you’ll spare yourself some aches and pains when you finally reach your destination. Some airports even have workout rooms, but if you’re at one that doesn’t, don’t let that stop you. Chances are you’ll never be seeing anyone around you ever again. And if you don’t have time between flights to get a good stretch, you can do it on the plane: Here’s the Best Way to Do Yoga on an Airplane.
Find a Rocking Chair
If you’re fortunate enough to be in an airport with rocking chairs, nab one of those bad boys and get to rocking. Rocking chairs are used as therapy for conditions ranging from dementia to ADHD. The motion of rocking back and forth is soothing and might even release endorphins, which is good because you’re going to want to be in a good mood when you board your flight. Being excessively upset is one of 10 Things You’re Doing That Will Get You Kicked Off an Airplane, after all.
Mark Your Baggage As “Fragile”
At the end of your flight, you probably want to get out of the airport as quickly as possible, and you don’t have to let a checked bag slow you down. There are a few trick to help you get your bags faster. When you check your bag, ask to have a “fragile” sticker placed on your suitcase. This increases the chances of your bag getting loaded onto the plane last, which means it gets unloaded first.
You can also ask about checking your bag at the gate, which means your bag will be waiting for you when you get off the plane. But if checking a bag is an absolute no-go for you, fit everything into your carry-on by using The Best Way to Pack a Suitcase.
If you’re going to eat at the airport, make the most of your meal by eating foods that will make it easier to sleep on the plane. Fish like salmon and halibut contain omega-3s and the vitamin B6, which helps your body produce melatonin, a hormone that helps people fall and stay asleep.
If you aren’t hungry enough to eat an entire meal, consider the banana your best bud. They’re a great source of magnesium, which helps relax muscles and nerves. If getting enough sleep is a constant problem for you, check out 70 Tips For Your Best Sleep Ever.
Stay Updated on Security
You don’t want to be blindsided by long lines when you get to the airport. Luckily, there’s an app for that. MyTSA will let you know how busy your airport is when you’re going to be there, as well as provide you with information about travel that you can never quite remember, like can knitting needles be packed in a carry-on? For more ways to avoid pre-flight panic, check out 30 Easy Ways to Fight Stress.
Expert travelers have got the security process down pat, but the rest of you should take the time to come up with a standard travel uniform. You want clothes that are free of extra zippers and metal that don’t wrinkle easily and shoes without laces that you can slip into and out of quickly.
On top of all of this, you should also look presentable enough that if the stranger you chat up happens to be a potential professional connection, they won’t remember you as “the person in the SpongeBob pajamas at the airport.” The hard part is figuring out what that outfit looks like for you, but once you do, you’re set, and getting through security will be a breeze. Luckily, there are plenty of other tricks to keeping your cool while traveling. Here are 20 Ways to Make Travel Less Stressful.
Skip the Customs Hassle
You can make the process of getting through customs a little bit simpler by downloading the Mobile Passport app. It’s authorized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and speeds up the customs process in 24 American airports. Now that you’ve got customs beat, here’s A Practical Guide to Quitting Your Job and Traveling the World.
The air filtration system on a plane leaves the cabin with extremely dry air, which can make you feel parched, with itchy eyes and skin. Avoid all of that discomfort by staying hydrated at the airport.
While the airport bar presents a pretty serious temptation, drinking alcohol will make you more dehydrated and can make it harder to sleep on the plane. Instead, stick to water. Bring along an empty reusable water bottle and fill it up at the airport, since bottled water could be a less-than-desirable option. Why? A New Report Says Your Bottled Water Contains Unsafe Contaminants.
There’s no better way to zone out the calamity surrounding you in an airport than to actually zone out. Many airports have chapels or even meditation rooms where you can go to get your Zen on, but if that’s not an option, a mindfulness app like Calm or Headspace can give you guided meditations on the go. If you really want to up your meditation game, here are 10 Ways to Focus Better During Meditation.
The best way to have a relaxing time at the airport is to be there when nobody else is. Flying during off-peak hours means you’ll face shorter lines and fewer people for less money than traveling during more popular times. Another perk of off-peak travel is that the unconventional hours generally make it easier to sleep through your entire flight, since you would usually be asleep anyway. And when you want to make your in-flight experience more enjoyable, check out the 10 Airlines With the Best In-Flight Entertainment.
Do Some Research
You spend countless hours figuring out the best place to get tacos once you reach your destination. It’s also worth your time to spend 20 minutes figuring out the best place to grab a meal at the airport. Knowing before you go could be the difference between having a soggy McMuffin or a meal to remember.
Travel Nerd is a great resource for getting to know the layout of your airport, too, so you don’t waste time getting lost and winding up lost in a horde of angry, jet-lagged passengers.
Prep Your Gadgets Ahead of Time
You don’t want to spend your time at the airport dealing with unreliable and often expensive wi-fi to download a movie or podcast for your flight. Nor do you want to be tethered to an outlet to make sure your iPad doesn’t die mid-air. Consider prepping your devices for travel part of the packing process. Instead of putting clothes in a suitcase, you’re putting entertainment on a tablet.
Check In From Home
Skip waiting in line at the airport by checking in from home or from your phone. It’s a great way to save some time at the airport if you find yourself running late. Even if everything’s going according to schedule, it’s one less thing for you to deal with at the airport, which is always a good thing.
Put the Device Down
You might be tempted to blast through all the entertainment you brought to carry you through your flight, but if you do, you’re missing a heck of a show. Airports are great for people watching, and you have paid dearly for the experience of watching what is happening all around you.
Show Up Early
Spending more time at the airport than absolutely necessary might sound like total madness to you, but it’s actually a great way to make your trip much more enjoyable. Rather than being rushed through security, stressing about finding your gate, and winding up stuck on a plane hungry, thirsty, and grumpy, try to schedule so you have two hours or so before your flight departs so you can get a meal, grab some snacks, and unwind before you get into a metal tube and get launched into the sky.
Take a Nap
Use your layover to catch up on sleep so you won’t be completely exhausted by the time you get to your destination. A good sleep mask and some earplugs can make it easier to catch some zzzz’s than you might think. Some airports even have capsule hotels and sleep areas (which you’ll know about since you’ve done your research) so you can get some truly sound sleep.
Pop Into a Lounge
There’s one surefire way to make any time at an airport significantly better in every possible way: go to a lounge. If you don’t have a membership, you can sometimes use miles to purchase a day pass. Other travel cards include a single pass as an annual perk. Or you can just shell out the dough to buy a day pass for yourself and enjoy complimentary wi-fi, drinks, snacks, and peace and quiet. When you factor how much you would be spending on all that stuff to sit out amongst the commoners, it might not even be that big of an expense, all told.
Rather than spending your time at the airport in an uncomfortable chair watching CNN, use your time to make your upcoming flight even more enjoyable. You can’t bring snacks through security, but you can buy them after and bring them on the plane with you.
Spend some time looking around for something healthy to take on the plane, and while you’re at it, you can snag a magazine or some reading material to keep yourself occupied, because anything is better than a tiny bag of pretzels and the half-completed crossword at the back of the in-flight magazine.
Consider Your Vacation Started
As bleak as it sounds, to truly enjoy the airport, you must surrender to the airport. It is inevitable, and there’s no avoiding it. So, instead of thinking of it as an obstacle to your vacation, consider it the start of your holiday. Grab a drink (but not too many), do a little shopping, and maybe treat yourself to a mani-pedi if you’re fortunate enough to be at an airport big enough to boast such accommodations, because vacation has officially begun.
Use a Kiosk
Even though you should definitely check in before you get to the airport, if there’s not too much of a line, check in at a kiosk to see if there are any available upgrades, which can usually be bought last-minute at a pretty discounted price.
Knowing you’ve got a first-class flight on the cheap ahead of you is enough to ease the sting of any time you have to spend waiting to actually board the plane. To really make the most of your trip, check out 35 Brilliant Travel Hacks Only Experienced Globetrotters Know.
To discover more amazing secrets about living your best life, click here to sign up for our FREE daily newsletter!