Traveling is stressful.
No one likes it, but if you want to relax on a beach somewhere far away, unfortunately you’ll have to get there in the first place.
Below we’ve put together three basic suggestions and explanations that aim to make your travel experience as comfortable and stress-free as possible!
This first suggestion is absolutely vital to comfortable, stress-free traveling.
Rather than just make a mental note to “plan ahead,” though, I find it extremely useful to apply concrete terms to this vague advice. I do so by rolling the advice of “plan ahead” into my packing phase of traveling.
Being able to plan ahead while packing means knowing your destination inside and out.
What will the weather be like? If traveling internationally, what’s the currency exchange rate? Is your bank card accepted wherever you’re going? If so, do you have to call your bank and authorize usage out of state or country? Are there defined constraints on how much luggage you’ll be able to bring along with you? If traveling on an airplane, what’s the weight limit for included luggage? How will you be getting around at your destination?
These are just a few of the questions that I run through when I’m packing to travel. Essentially, take fifteen minutes to sit down and explore any situation you can think of that might affect how you pack or what you pack.
Next, make sure you are fully stocked up on anything you plan to bring with you.
If I need to top off on prescriptions, vitamins, OTC pain relievers, contact lens fluid, or any other toiletries, I try to do so at least 5-10 days before I will be leaving.
There’s nothing as bad as the stress of having to make a 3 A.M. Walmart run for deodorant the morning of your departure, or the sinking feeling you get when you’re already aching one hour into your twelve hour flight and you find out that you didn’t bring any Tylenol with you.
A great website that I enjoy using for this purpose is Travel Checklist. You input all the conditions of your trip, and it spits back out a comprehensive checklist of what to do before departure, what to bring, what to do upon arrival, and everything in-between.
Finally, consider how you should be packing.
What do you want to be easily accessible to you while traveling? If you’re going to be on a long flight, for example, make sure everything you’d need during that time period (change of shirt, extra deodorant, toothbrush, tooth paste, glasses, etc.) is packed conveniently in your carry on, and not jammed at the bottom of a suitcase that you can’t get to for the next 15 hours.
If you’re going on a road trip, make sure anything you might need is positioned at the top of the trunk and not buried at the bottom. In general, be logical about your packing. Don’t do it last minute, and don’t do it haphazardly.
If you’ll be lugging everything around large airports during layovers, make sure you’re packing in a wheeled suitcase, or something else properly equipped to deal with heavy luggage.
Check out this cool video by the Heathrow Airport on how to pack a suitcase efficiently.
Have a backup plan
This goes hand in hand with our first suggestion, and is especially vital if you care about your sanity. Bad things tend to happen while traveling – flight delays cause missed connection flights, tires blow out, reservations and bookings magically disappear, and debit cards are declined for indecipherable reasons.
Most of these situations can be easily remedied by a backup plan. The trick here is to change your mindset: instead of relying on things going right, assume instead that they will go wrong, and prepare for the worst.
If you’re driving on a cross-country road trip, it can be as simple as making sure you have a top-of-the-line replacement tire for that inevitable blowout.
When making long-distance reservations, document everything. Write down who you talked to, what they told you, and when the correspondence took place. Print out confirmations, and hold on to your receipts.
You might get made fun of by friends or family for being paranoid, but when you get bumped up to a penthouse suite because you have proof that the hotel overbooked and threw out your reservation, you’ll be sitting pretty.
Flight delays can be the trickiest to account for, but the key is to stay on top of information pertaining to your flight. As soon as you catch wind of a delayed flight, contact anyone who might be affected by your late arrival and let them know what’s happening.
If at all possible, inform taxis, hotels, etc. that your flight is late and your arrival may be off. If you miss a connecting flight, be aware of when the next available flight is boarding, departing, and arriving.
Convey this to whoever might need to know that information.
Most of these preparations and backup plans will only take you minutes to set up, and can be absolute lifesavers should the worst happen.
This is more of a physical tip than the first two, but it is equally important.
Often times it’s impossible to be perfectly situated and comfortable while on long trips (even if you have the best travel pillow possible!).
It’s important to stretch thoroughly and repeatedly throughout the trip in order to minimize both present and lasting aches and pains from being stuck sitting for so long.
If driving, stop every one-two hours for a 10-minute stretching break. Get out of the car at a rest stop and walk around for a while. If you’re capable of doing so, drop down into a squatting position for a minute or so in order to thoroughly stretch out your posterior chain – hamstrings, quadriceps, and glutes.
Do a few push ups to get the blood flowing, and gently but firmly massage any specific points of pain that you notice. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you’re moving around.
If you find yourself on a long flight, take a walk up and down the plane when you can. If you’re stuck sitting for an extended period of time, there are plenty of stretches that you do while remaining in your seat.
For example, plant both feet firmly on the ground and slowly lift your heels up while keeping your toes grounded. Keep extending your heels until you feel a healthy stretching in your calves, and hold that position for a few seconds before slowly lowering your heels back to the ground.
Slowly raise your hands up above your head as high as you can, and hold that position for a few seconds. Gently and carefully roll your neck left and right, or around in a circle.
If you get creative, there are ways to stretch just about every part of your body even while stuck strapped into an airplane seat.
No matter how you do it, just stretch – you’ll thank yourself when you arrive at your destination limber and with a spring in your step instead of achey and stiff. Below are three videos from Expert Village detailing stretches that can easily be done while traveling!
While traveling is often much more complex than three simple tips can cover, following these suggestions will find you well on your way to more comfortable, stress-free travel.
Hang in there, and before you know it, you’ll be relaxing for real on a white beach next to pristine blue waters!
Let us know if you have any personal travel guidelines or methods of staying cool, calm, and collected while traveling!