Traveling during the holidays is always nothing short of insanity. Chaos seems to rule the highways and hover in the airports. Why? What is it exactly that makes people the worst versions of themselves when it comes to holiday travel? Is it dealing with the crowds, or anxiety of approaching massive security lines, the fear of flight delays or a cancelled flight altogether, or the angst of being cramped in a metal tube for hours on end? It seems every time I travel, particularly around the holidays, I encounter someone or something that makes a great story – and if it annoys me, I’m sure it annoys so many of you. So let’s break it down shall we?
Above all – Know your Triggers
Man oh man do I have things I know beyond a shadow of doubt that bug the hell out of me. Pushy people, the need to bottle neck the gate once boarding has started (even though they’re in group 9 and they’re currently boarding group 1) or smacking gum/food/etc right next to me. Even just typing that raises my blood pressure BUT if I’m aware of what annoys the life out of me, I can be much more aware of my reactions when it does happen. Mentally preparing yourself to handle the worst makes it much easier to handle anything thrown your way so when you want to throat punch someone, instead you smile and wave it off. One of our last flights up to Boston was plagued by these INSANELY LOUD girls who a) talked so loudly you could hear them through noise cancelling headphones b) kept kicking our seats c) were incredibly vapid. I thought Charlie was going to strangle them but bless him, his patience is far beyond mine. Don’t be those people. You will aggravate and drive anyone surrounding you bonkers.
Bring a Distraction
Oh man – I’m one of those people that just zonks out on the plane, almost immediately. Whether I’m riding in the car or flying, I start getting sleepy the second the engines start purring. When I do wake up though, I reach for my kindle or my laptop and start occupying myself. It’s so much better than sitting and staring at the back of the seat ahead of you and boring yourself to tears. It also helps the time go by much more quickly AND is a nice distraction from anything bothersome around you. When we were flying out to Boston yesterday I had to laugh because the dude sitting next to Charlie literally didn’t bring anything to do on the 4 hour flight. So what did he do? He was constantly peeking over at Charlie’s iPad – which is somewhat weird and uncomfortable. I thought it was funny, Charlie not so much. I told him he should have just offered one of his headphones, haha! Which leads me into the next point..
Always always always pack headphones, even better if they’re noise-cancelling. Have Mr. Sniffles sitting next to you? Or perhaps a screaming baby (I always feel bad for them and their parents)? Slap on those puppies and nap/watch a movie. Often times now you can join the wifi network on the plane for free and watch the movies they have listed. Forgot your headphones? Ask the flight attendant – they usually have lots to spare! Not the type to watch or listen to anything? Bring some ear plugs – they’ll still help with all the distracting side noise and make for a more pleasant flight experience.
Choose the best flight times
More often than not, traveling really late or really early spares you the insane mass of crowds. The security lines are typically much shorter, and levels of hysteria are at their lowest. Also flying during the middle of the week, if possible, tends to be less insane than traveling near the weekends. Be sure to check in as early as possible, you never know what may happen on the day of travel.
Now if this isn’t the biggest joke coming from me, I don’t know what is. I am the WORST packer! I am constantly harassed with various thoughts of “what if” and then suddenly I have three full suitcases. Over time I’m getting better but I still overpack. Winter is even more difficult for me because all of the warm clothes take up more room! I also always check my baggage – I hate having to haul things around in the airport, particularly if you have tight connection times. I saw some people sprinting through DFW airport yesterday and always instantly think of Home Alone when they’re making a mad dash for their gate. God forbid that happens to you, but if it does, you don’t want to be bogged down with luggage you have to wheel along.
Speaking of Connections..
Try to be mindful if you have a connecting flight of the amount of time you have to make that connection. Delays can always happen, especially during winter weather. You want to be sure you have allowed ample time to make your connection, even if unexpected delays occur. The panic of missing a connection is never a pleasant experience. I try to always fly direct if possible!
Get the best price out there
Flying can be super costly – particularly on certain days of the week. Sundays are notoriously the worst when it comes to the amount of people traveling that way plus flights are more expensive. Have you ever used price-change emails for travel? I always use Tingo for hotel rooms, if the price goes up the rate at which you booked stays the same, and if the price goes down, you’re refunded the difference! For flights I like to use Hopper, Skyscanner and Google Flights. There is also the FlightAware app that looks for any foreseeable delays in your flights, super handy! You can also check out the My TSA app if you have any questions on what is allowed to be carried on the flight!
Send gifts ahead of time
I always ship my gifts to my destination ahead of time. It’s one less thing I have to worry about in the airport and I can track the shipping info. I’ve never attempted to take gifts through TSA but how angry would you be if they decided they needed to open one of your wrapped gifts, or worse – they won’t let it pass. Yikes!
Pack some snacks
Whether you are traveling alone or with little ones, snacks are the best idea. Have dietary restrictions or food allergies? The best way to make sure you’re covered is by bringing your own snacks you know are safe for you. Plus – snacks always go well with movies!
Prepare ahead of time
Gas up the vehicle the day before you have to head to the airport, you never know what may happen and you don’t won’t to be on empty and running late! Pack your carry on bag before hand, wrap up chargers and stick them in their own little pouch, make sure your laptop/kindle/electronics are positioned well enough to be able to take them out easily for security. Remember to take out the trash before you leave (don’t want to come home to a stinky house!). Make a packing list so you can be sure you don’t forget your underwear or toothbrush!
Other things to be aware of –
Drink lots and lots of water while you’re traveling. The air inside airplanes is extremely dry – don’t get dehydrated! Take care of your skin while traveling: the stress of traveling plus different climates can do a number on your skin! I always pack a face mask! Also, pack hand sanitizer, the airplane and airports are disastrously notorious to be breeding grounds for illness! Wash those hands, avoid touching your face, and get your flu shot! Check out my tips for avoiding illness here!
I hope these tips help you along your travels this holiday season – they definitely help me! But one more funny story – on our way up here yesterday there was a man sitting behind me who felt the need to take off his shoes and then STRETCH HIS LEGS into my seat. Not in the back of the seat but the SIDE OF THE SEAT. I had the window seat and felt a jab in my side. I look over and there is a smelly socked foot resting on MY ARM REST. Are you kidding me dude? I turned around and kindly asked him to remove his foot out of my space. If you’re that desperate to stretch out your legs, pay for the extra leg room, don’t impose on someone else’s space! How gross is that?! I’ve also seen several people trim their nails (hands and feet) in the airplane or at the gate and LEAVE THEIR NAIL CLIPPINGS on the floor. EW!
Photography by Megan Weaver