Travel is complicated now. Here are 5 ways to stress less
Whenever you’re ready to dust off your suitcase and get back out there, know that your usual trip routine will need some adjustments. But the extra preparation could spare you a considerable amount of stress.
Nerdy tip: Though travel has resumed for many in the U.S., we’re not yet out of the woods when it comes to COVID-19. Your life at home may have mostly returned to normal, but things are far from business as usual in many cities and countries. If you plan to travel, take appropriate precautions and follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance regarding travel safety.
1. Plan ahead. Way, way ahead.
Check your passport expiration date
Odds are your passport hasn’t gotten much use lately, so check its expiration date ASAP if you’re thinking about an overseas trip. The State Department now recommends submitting your passport application at least six months before planned travel.
Make advanced reservations
For the time being, you can’t just waltz into many tourist attractions and buy a ticket like you used to. In some cases, you must book in advance online.
If you plan to drive to the airport and leave your car there, you can also pre-book your parking at some airports. Also, getting a table at many restaurants is still a challenge because of staffing shortages. Make reservations or build in time for longer waits.
Consider travel insurance
If you’re planning an especially expensive, once-in-a-lifetime trip, consider purchasing a travel insurance policy that provides appropriate coverage. You may already have some coverage if you used a travel rewards credit card with built-in travel protections to pay for your bookings.
2. Anticipate airport absurdity
Get to the airport early
Lauren Doyle, president of boutique travel agency The Travel Mechanic, a member of Ensemble Travel Group, suggests you get to the airport at least two to three hours before boarding, even for domestic flights.
If you’re hoping to quickly scarf down some food before boarding, dining options are limited at many airports (again, because of staffing shortages). Bring your own food or give yourself more time to hunt down a snack.
If there’s ever been a time to reduce what you bring on a trip, it’s now. Doyle’s recommended packing list includes three pairs of shoes (if they’re leather, pick black or brown, but not both), clothing in neutral colors and smaller accessories to dress outfits up. Don’t forget layers like a rain jacket or scarf, if needed.
3. Be kind
Recognize that we’re all in this together
Everyone at an airport is advocating for their own needs — the need to drop off a loved one, check a bag or get to a gate on time. But you can accomplish your goal without getting in someone else’s way, or worse, treating them rudely.
Adjust your expectations for service
Airports, hotels and restaurants are understaffed right now, and that means longer lines, reduced service and limited capacity. Again, this is a time where advanced planning on your part can help.
4. Keep your itinerary light and flexible
Plan a realistic schedule
With so many limitations still in place, you’re less likely to check off every item on your travel wish list. If anything is a must-do, get tickets quickly and arrange your days around those activities. Identify a few backup options that can fill in your day if something else gets canceled.
Embrace the unexpected
On any trip, no matter how well you prepare, things will go wrong. But that’s as much a part of the travel experience as things going right.
“Travel is most exciting and rewarding when it requires you to ad-lib, be spontaneous, and use your imagination to conquer surprise challenges,” travel writer and TV host Rick Steves said. “I like to make an art out of taking the unexpected in stride — and by doing so, I’ve gained lots of new friends and fond memories along the way.”
5. Make it easier to reacclimate after travel
Prepare your home before you leave
Even if your trip goes according to plan, anticipate coming home bone-tired. Before you leave, take care of some errands so you don’t have to scramble so much when you get back.
Give yourself a buffer
If you have the vacation time to spare, take an additional day off before returning to work. This gives you the chance to fully unpack, restock the fridge and otherwise get yourself ready for your return to real life. Even better, come home on a Thursday so you get a three-day weekend.
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