Many see traveling as a way to avoid the day-to-day routine and head off to a new vibrant city or relaxing beach town. However, the majestic nature of traveling doesn’t come without its share of accompanying stress factors. There’s the transportation, accommodations, and experiences that we’re all hoping run extremely well. There is no way to guarantee that the journey will be free of travel stress or that unforeseen circumstances will not occur. However, there are many ways to prepare yourself (and possibly family and friends) for a smoother journey.
We’ve talked to travel experts about their best-in-practice tips and the methods that they use to avoid travel stress. Below, we’ve broken down the preparations to take before you leave for your trip, guidelines to follow on your trip, and steps to recuperate after you’ve settled in back home.
Before Your Trip
Don’t get stuck in the middle seat.
While spontaneous trips are fun and exciting, spending hours squished between strangers is not. Make sure to book your plane or train ticket well in advance, so that you’re able to pick your preferred aisle or window seat.
Focus on packing.
We’re all guilty of this: packing the morning of our trip, unprepared and seemingly throwing items into our suitcases. Well, this is where that has to end. Make sure to allocate quality time and put effort into your packing routine. Check what the weather will be like at your final destination. Remember to bring all your chargers and technology equipment. And, the toughest one, don’t overpack! If you’re going for three nights, you don’t need ten outfits.
Use hard copies.
Technology is wonderful, and our smartphones hold everything we could possibly need. Unfortunately, phones can run out of battery, get lost or stolen, or use up your allocated data. In some cases, with a SIM card, your phone won’t even work in certain countries. When this happens, it’s always important to have hard copies. Keep a folder filled with your travel itinerary, reservations, and (if traveling outside the country) passport photocopies.
Take care of finances.
Expert and Author of A Traveler’s Passport to Etiquette, Lisa Grotts recommends, “letting your credit card companies and bank know ahead of time the places [that] you’ll be visiting. Or they may place a hold on your card while you’re shopping!”
We’re not invincible.
Consultant Cory Sarrett of the La Galeria Hotel in New Orleans recommends that his guests always cross their t’s and dot their i’s “to avoid stressing out if something were to go wrong. Just go prepared for as if it were to happen! For example, put a photocopy of your passport in your luggage. Pack for all kinds of weather, and pack a little extra cash in a separate and secure place.”
Another important caveat to remember, if traveling abroad, make sure to get yourself covered with travel health insurance. A lot of carriers will not cover once you cross the border. So, spending that $30 upfront can save you a lot of money and hassle if anything were to happen during your trip.
During Your Travels
Just like packing the right shoes for a long hike, make sure that you make your travel day one that gives you extra comfort and support. A major contributing factor (especially during extended hours sitting), is a neck pillow. Global Brand Director of CORI Traveller Raymond Chng, states that “statistics show that almost nine out of ten adults experience neck pains during a flight. Keeping your neck stable in a neutral position is important so as not to place excessive pressure and stress on the neck (especially while seated in the same position over long hours).
The problem with generic travel pillows is that they don’t take into account that we all come in different neck lengths and preferred resting positions. It’s like wearing a pair of shoes that are either too big or too small.” So, make sure that you’re spending extra time picking out a quality product that will give your neck all the support that it needs.
Don’t cut corners on luggage.
According to SkyRoll President Don Chernoff, “Get luggage that is functional for your particular travel needs. You don’t need to spend a fortune, but you should avoid the really cheap luggage. It won’t last and might break in the middle of a trip.” There’s nothing worse than having poorly functioning luggage when trekking to catch a flight or a train. Spend the extra dollar on buying a top quality piece of luggage. Not only will it last you for a good amount of time, but it will also ease unnecessary travel stress when a zipper breaks or a wheel stalls out.
Stretch and walk around.
It’s no surprise that sitting for long periods of time can be uncomfortable and even hazardous to our health. Brad Walker, director of education at StretchLab, encourages travelers to “move around as much as you can while on the flight. Head to the bathroom and walk to the end of the plane. While you’re there, do a few extra stretches. Roll those shoulders, swing those arms, and do some gentle backbends.” Even practicing a few poses of chair yoga can help increase circulation and get your heart pumping.
When You Arrive
Don’t go completely off the grid.
If traveling outside the United States, it may not be beneficial to be completely without data. You may need it to seek direction, information, and help. Bring an unlocked smartphone with you. At most airports, there will be an opportunity to buy local sim cards to restock your phone with data for the duration of your trip. Additionally, some USA carriers have deals where they support international free data. If you frequently travel abroad, this may be the best option to consider.
Exchange currency or make sure that you have enough.
Having cash on you when traveling is very important—whether traveling thirty minutes up the road or to a foreign country. Keep in mind, some places may not have the ability to take cards. You’ll need physical money to pay for taxis and tipping those in the hospitality service throughout your trip. If traveling internationally, make sure that you’re getting the best conversion rate when taking out cash or exchanging money. Typical money exchanges overcharge versus the standard fee from banks at ATMs (yes, it is possible to take out foreign currency at ATMs with an American bank card—just remember that there will be a fee). If you find yourself traveling often, look into a bank that waives international withdrawal fees.
Don’t miss out on everything that your destination has to offer.
Expat and Travel Writer Caroline Topperman recommends “buying tickets in advance. Lineups for attractions can be extremely long and often there are no guarantees of getting in. It takes a minute to go online and pre-purchase a ticket.” Additionally, talk to your hotel’s concierge or visit online travel blogs to learn about the best excursions and restaurants located at your destination. Often times, some of these experiences may be best to book before your flight takes off (pending on the popularity).
Keep yourself healthy and your food fresh.
We may want to indulge in the area’s local cuisine. But, traveling shouldn’t be an excuse to put health and wellness in the background. Avoid fast food and seemingly cheap and easy options, even if you’re in a rush. If spending a day outside or out and about in nature with little access to dining options, make sure to pack a healthy meal. Additionally, keep your produce safe and fresh throughout the day. Natasha Samuel, the director of Outreach at the Fresh Glow, recommends storing your produce and associating bread and cheeses (if packing sandwiches) in “organic botanicals that naturally extend the shelf life of produce (in and out of the fridge). This allows food to be fresher longer and reduces the chance of spoiling. This is a perfect product for travelers wanting to pack healthy snacks without having to deal with spoiling fruit, or soggy bread.”
When You’re Back Home
Check your accounts.
A bank account that is. There’s nothing worse than going days (sometimes even weeks), without knowing if duplicate or fraudulent charges have been made on your card. When you get back home, make sure that your spending accurately reflects your purchases. If not, it’s always easier to deal with the mishaps sooner rather than later.
Take an extra PTO day.
“Sometimes, the most stressful part of a trip is remembering everything you have to do once your return. Instead of stressing about only getting five hours of sleep and the inevitable jet lag because your flight gets in late Sunday night, take precautions. Get that following Monday off, as well. Having an entire day to sleep in, unpack, start laundry, and get back into your daily routine will allow you to feel less rushed about getting everything done,” says travel expert Carlee Linden.
Help others out.
Just like you booked the hotel with five stars, and found that hole in the wall place with the amazingly authentic cuisine, share the love with your future travelers. Write reviews and leave behind guidance to those who may be following in your footsteps.