As someone who interacts with soon-to-be world travelers on a daily basis, the biggest tip I can share with those plagued by pre-trip anxiety is not to fret the little things!
Travel by nature is unpredictable, and if you’re going to travel halfway across the globe, there is some degree of flexibility and willingness to “roll with the punches” that’s required for your sanity to remain intact. Here are just a few of the “speed bumps” that can be encountered during the travel process that really shouldn’t be reason to suddenly get cold feet at the airport and hurry home with your suitcase in tow as quickly as possible.
- Flight seats really don’t matter and they’re never guaranteed anyway.
When you plan a vacation to Hawaii, the images that come to mind when fantasizing are sunsets on the beach and hula dancers covered in flowery leis, right? I’ve never heard someone say, “Man, I just can’t wait to be sitting on that plane for 8 hours! It’s going to be great. That’s the whole reason I’m going on this trip!”
I have literally seen people inches away from booking a trip, finding out there aren’t seats available next to each other for them and their travel companion, and dropping the whole idea and not going on the trip at all. This, quite frankly, baffles me. You’re going to pass up the experience of a lifetime because you don’t get to sit by a window for a few hours or chat with your spouse who you see every day anyway?!
Not only that, but even if you are able to “reserve” seats, the airlines always reserve the right to change them. I can’t even count how many times flight equipment or aircrafts have been changed at the last minute and a family of six travelling together has ended up scattered all over the plane. That, or Kanye West could decide he wants to sit in your “reserved” seat and you better believe Delta’s catering to Mr. West’s every whim and you’re being booted to the back of the plane. It’s not the end of the world–go anyway!
- Flight delays are a fact of life.
I get it that in today’s world everyone wants to be compensated for their time or inconvenience. Nobody likes waiting around on a tarmac while their plane is inspected for mechanical issues or getting off the plane just to re-board 15 minutes later while your luggage lifts off to Costa Rica or somewhere far more exotic than where you’re headed.
But what I think most people fail to understand is the extreme complexity of flying and the sheer number of factors that all need to align perfectly in order for a flight to depart on time. A lightning storm three states over affects your flight. A turtle on the runway affects your flight. Excess humidity in the luggage hold affects your flight. And any time any of these seemingly unconnected factors plays a role in delaying your long-anticipated flight to Florida, the plane doesn’t lift off for any other reason than to preserve your safety. Trust me, the crew wants to get there and get it over with just as badly as you do.
Frankly, when someone comments that their trip was ruined by a one hour delay on the way to their destination, I have to resist the urge to blurt “Just an hour? Lucky you!” Don’t let it ruin your vacation—there are much worse things that could happen—like the pilot dangerously putting your plane in the air despite a questionable weather forecast.
- Airport security is absolutely fine.
It’s really not that scary, okay? TSA agents are people, just like you and I. You’re not going to be detained in a Mexican prison because you forgot to take that bottle of hairspray out of your purse. All that’s going to happen is they’re going to go through your backpack wearing rubber gloves and throw the item-in-question in the trash and you’ll have to stop at a convenience store and grab a new one.
So many travelers get overly agitated when going through airport security. “Why do I have to take my shoes and belt off? Why do they make me wait in this long line and put all of my stuff through a stupid scanner?” Because of 9/11, that’s why. And I for one, am more than willing to undergo a few minutes of delay and a pat down to ensure that nothing of the sort happens again!
I’ll be posting a video sometime in the near future with a few tips for getting through security a bit more smoothly, but until then, just remember to be patient and relax. Just remember, you’ll be relaxing on a beach under the swaying palms in no time.
- You don’t need to stay connected.
In fact, you shouldn’t! That’s part of the beauty of going on vacation – taking a vacation from everyone trying to contact you. So many travelers are worried about being able to be called, texted, or having access to internet while on a trip. Don’t fret! Here’s what you do: give your loved ones a copy of the hotels you’ll be staying at and their phone numbers. In the case of an extreme emergency, I’m sure paying a little extra for an international call will be the last thing on their mind. If you need to contact them, you can do so from your hotel or ask someone to let you use their phone—if worse comes to worse you’ll have to pay an extra $5 when you check out for the international call.
Anything other than a dire emergency shouldn’t interrupt your relaxation anyway and you’ll be surprised by how calm you feel after an entire week without seeing drama on Facebook and a lack of exposure to work e-mails.
- Figuring out every minute detail is not necessarily the way to go.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – the unexpected things that happen when you travel are the ones you talk about years after the fact – they’re the ones that stick with you in your memory.
Don’t get me wrong—there’s not a doubt in the world that I’m a planner, but you don’t need to know exactly who to look for and where to go to catch your grossly overpriced private transfer from the airport to the hotel. Take a taxi! It’s usually cheaper, faster, and less hassle to simply follow the signs for “Ground Transportation” than it is to look for the driver at desk 6 wearing the red and white shirt with a sign that says “Aloha Tours”.
Leave a free day in your itinerary to go check out that cute café you’ve walked by every morning during your first couple days in a new city. Wander, get lost, and enjoy being in fresh and unexplored surroundings. You can’t do that if you have to meet at 2pm sharp to catch a hop-on hop-off tour and then 6pm sharp to see the evening performance of Wicked.
There is a delicate balance between researching a place enough to know what you’re doing but not so much that you feel overwhelmed and pressured to cram everything into the short time you do have. It’s simply not humanly possible to see and experience every single thing a place has to offer during your week long break from work. Knowing in general some things you will try to do if you have the time but not having everything scheduled to a T is one of the keys to keeping your travel nerves at ease.
Here are some of the few things that DO matter when planning a trip, other than simply taking the plunge and booking it.
- Verifying that the spelling of your name and your date of birth are accurate on your flight reservation.
- You have the address of your hotel handy for cab drivers—especially when you get into the Holiday Inns and Comfort Inns of the world. Often in big cities there are at least ten of each of the chain hotels and it helps to know which one you’re headed to!
- Double and triple check that dates are exactly correct when you book your flight itinerary.
- And most importantly, HAVING FUN!
Force yourself to relinquish that control you hold such a tight grip on during your day-to-day life and revel in not having it. As long as you’ve got the above points covered, you’re good to go.
Keep Calm and Fly On,
CAITLYN WITHOUT A COMPASS