Last week, we looked at ways to get organized if you'll be traveling by car this summer. This week, we'll review some tips on keeping yourself (and your traveling companions) sane if you'll be taking to the friendly skies.
If you're traveling by plane
Air travel is often the speediest way to get where you're going, especially if you're traveling long-distance. Of course, it can also be the most stressful: if the check-in and security lines don't make you want to tear your hair out, the plane ride itself might, should you forget snacks or entertainment. The good news is that, with some simple planning and preparation, you can make air travel smoother and more enjoyable.
- Brush up on the rules and regulations. By now, most of us are familiar with the TSA's 3-1-1 rule for toiletries packed in carry-on luggage, as well as the list of prohibited items. But do you know the rules on what's permissible in luggage and what isn't if you'll be traveling from a foreign country? Do you know your airline's policies on luggage? (How much can you carry on? Check in? Is there a weight limit per bag?) Familiarizing yourself with this information before you get to the airport can save you serious headaches.
- Pack smart. Though this tip holds year-round, it's especially important during peak travel times. In short: don't pack what you're not fairly sure you'll need during your trip. Don't pack bulky or messy things you can easily get where you're going (such as beach towels if you'll be staying with friends or family). Pack clothes you can mix and match and wear more than once. Don't take with you anything you couldn't replace or would miss severely if it were lost (such as heirloom jewelry). In general, remember that everything you take with you is something you'll have to lug around and keep tabs on while you're on the go.
- Bring snacks and entertainment. Unless you're traveling first class, you're highly unlikely to get a meal on board. Some airlines offer food for purchase, but to ensure that you have something that will fulfill you and that you'll actually want to eat, consider bringing your own snacks. (This is especially important if you're traveling with children.) And unless you're willing to take your chances with the in-flight movie and magazine, it's also wise to stash a book, a few magazines, a portable DVD player, or some travel games in your carry-on to keep yourself entertained.
- Give yourself enough time at the airport. To avoid the blood-pressure-raising stress of watching the minutes tick by as you stand in a glacial security line and wonder if you'll make it to your gate on time, give yourself plenty of wiggle room in terms of when you arrive at the airport. Though you can save some time by taking public transportation (or having someone drop you off so you don't have to deal with parking), checking in online before you get to the airport, and taking carry-on bags only, it can be hard to gauge how long security will take. To be safe, it's smart to arrive at least 90 minutes beforehand if you're traveling domestically and at least two hours (though ideally closer to three) if you're traveling internationally. Better to have to kill time at the airport newsstand than to risk missing your flight.
You may not be able to control airport crowds or thunderstorm delays when traveling by plane this summer, but you can help keep yourself calm and collected by traveling prepared.