I’m taking a momentary pause from rambling on about yoga—honestly, there are only so many life lessons that are worth writing about (most recently I perfected my technique of holding in farts during class, but there’s just not a full post worth of information there).
Today, since we’re on the precipice of the weekend and my head is in the clouds, I’ll indulge my wanderlust and talk about travel.
I’m constantly planning trips, looking at maps, and trying to get out of town. I think nothing of jumping on a plane for a cross-country weekend trip, and I don’t associate flying and travel with stress and fatigue. Over the years, I’ve developed a set of rules to which I adhere when prepping for flights and long car rides. These tried and true methods keep me prepared, de-stressed, and well rested.
I started keeping track of my best travel tips last year, for the purpose of being able to pass the info on to my friends (my close friends have already picked up some of my better-known tips).
So, without further ado, here’s Margaret’s guide to making travel suck less:
Clean the house before you leave.
This one is a no-brainer. There’s nothing more stressful than coming home from a long trip to dishes in the sink and your clothes in a pile on the floor. If the purpose of your travel is relaxation, then set yourself up to make the transition back to “the real world” as smooth as possible.
I try to go the full nine yards with pre-trip cleaning: fresh sheets, clean laundry, vacuumed floors (“try” being the operative word).
No checking bags.
You heard me. Stop overpacking like a damn fool.
Not only will you be able to speed through the check-in process without baggage, but also you’ll be able to walk off of the plane and right out of the airport when you arrive at your destination. Wave goodbye to the suckers waiting patiently at the baggage carousel.
Efficiency is key; the value of those extra few ounces of your favorite shampoo is outweighed by the value of your time. Checked luggage has the potential to stress you out by being damaged, late or lost. Don’t take that chance.
If you’re packing for two weeks or less in a single climate zone, there are no excuses.
Dress for success.
I have a few hard and fast rules when it comes to dressing for flights. Wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off, and pack socks in an easily-accessible place (I like wearing compression socks on flights). Wear some type of sweatshirt that has good pockets, so you can keep your boarding pass and ID on-hand.
It goes without saying that I prefer stretchy yoga-esque pants for travel (Lululemon makes ones with huge pockets on the side, which is great for storing boarding passes and passports), but really just wear whatever will allow for good movement and blood circulation.
Don’t eat airplane food.
There’s literally nothing that an airline will serve you that’s worth putting into your body. I am all too susceptible to the allure of the free food they serve on planes- sometimes I’m so bored that I just eat the pretzels to have something to do.
Pack yourself a meal and you can thank me later when everyone else is swollen from sodium intake and you’re properly fueled with fruit, some flax crackers, a low-sugar granola bar, and coconut water.
Which brings me to my next point…
My friends are probably sick and tired of me telling them to drink more water, but when you’re spending long hours at altitude in a pressurized cabin (with humidity at about 20 percent), the moisture is zapped from your body.
Drink ridiculous amounts of water, and consider laying off on really salty food (read: almost anything you can eat in the airport terminal that’s not a salad). Pack a reusable water bottle (an insulated Klean Kanteen with obnoxious hippie stickers is my choice) so you don’t get stuck paying for a $12 bottle of water in the airport terminal. For those of you who wear contacts, avoid the sandpaper feeling of dry eyes by keeping your glasses on until you arrive at your destination.
Ask, and you shall receive.
Be bold enough to ask for freebies and upgrades. You don’t get anything you don’t ask for. Be genuinely nice to the gate agent, learn your hotel concierge’s name, etc. Bring your A-game, leave your sense of shame at the door and don’t be afraid to be turned down when inquiring as to the availability of the Presidential Suite. Join frequent traveler rewards programs.
Companies will bend over backwards to help you if you have status with them. Pick an airline and a hotel chain and start accumulating points with them. You’ll speed to the front of lines, get upgraded, and even get some free award travel once in a while.
Take public transportation when convenient.
It’s a great way to get to know a city, and it’s a totally underrated part of the adventure of traveling. Taking trains to/from the airport whenever possible is a huge money saver: if you take 1 trip a month and save $25 each way, you just banked $600 in cab fees over the course of the year.
Bring a swimsuit.
I don’t care if you’re traveling to the Arctic Circle–you’re going to get there and there will be a killer heated pool party that you’ll miss out on if you don’t heed my rule. Swimsuits open you up to all types of fun, impromptu water adventures, and I guarantee that the times where you fail to pack a swimsuit are the times where you’ll need a swimsuit the most.
I live in San Diego, so I generally carry a swimsuit around with me wherever I go anyways…but for those of you who aren’t into the habit, do me a favor and keep a back-up swimsuit in your bag. It doesn’t take up much space.
Make skeleton plans.
This is more of an arrival tip than a transit tip, but I find that my most successful trips are ones in which I’ve set aside some time to lay out broadly what I want to do/see/eat. I don’t plan anything down to the minute, because that’s where you invite stress into your schedule. Instead, pick a manageable number of items to check off of your list, and let spontaneity fill the gaps in your schedule.
I always pick two or three restaurants that I must eat at, and everything else is planned around the food.
Go with the flow.
When you’re in transit, expect the unexpected. Your flight will be delayed by two hours due to weather, you’ll be sitting next to the guy who wants to lecture you about the effectiveness trickle-down economics, and you’ll forget your favorite pants at home. Just be okay with the process, embrace the craziness of the voyage, and try to stay a step ahead of the madness by bringing your A-game to the airport.
You are a zen master. You can do this. Now, crack open your book and get some reading done.
Author: Margaret Link
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Shena Tschofen at Flickr