Taking the stress out of airline travel

Whether you have a deathly fear of flying and require a trip to the airport bar prior to boarding, or you enjoy it, there’s no denying that airline can be stressful in general. Packing accordingly, arriving early enough, delays and cancelations, long journeys, connections—it can all add a damper to any getaway, which is the last thing you want. Although it may not always be possible to completely eliminate the stress of air travel, the following can certainly help:

Get the parking situation finalized before you leave

Nothing is more nerve-wracking than trying to figure out where to park on the day you’re leaving, especially if you’re running late. If you will be driving to the airport, make the decision ahead of time about whether you’ll be parking closer to the airport or in the airport’s economy lot, if available. Note that you’ll usually need extra time if you’ll be parking in the economy lot, so plan accordingly and leave earlier for the airport. Map out where you’re going well before your trip so you know exactly how to get to the parking lot—remember that your GPS will take you directly to the airport, which is not necessarily the same address as the parking lot. You’ll also want to strong consider paying for your airport parking in advance, which can save you time and also save you a lot of money, especially for those longer trips. We highly recommend Park ‘N Fly, which offers a lot of great perks, including discounts for booking in advances, free car washes while you’re gone (how cool is that?) and more.

Make packing a cinch

It can be disheartening when airport security tells you have to throw away your favorite liquid and cream products, or when your suitcase simply won’t fit in the overhead bin and you have to check it in. Prepare ahead of time by ensuring your carry-on bag is small enough to not only fit above you, but preferably under the seat in front of you, just in case there’s not any space. If you want something that really will stand the test of time (which is essential if you travel often, especially on a plane) then we recommend something like the Tumi Tegra-Lite Max Med Trip Expandable Case.

You can also ensure you have everything you need on board with you by sticking to the 3-1-1 rule and keeping your liquids under 3 ounces and putting them in a one-quart Ziploc. Buy travel-sized versions of your favorite products ahead of time, or buy small containers and fill them up before you go.

Consider a lounge pass

Waiting around at your gate for hours can be a drag, but not if you have access to the airline’s lounge. Think complimentary refreshments (food as well, sometimes), comfy furnishings, free Wi-Fi, private posh restrooms, and so on. It may not be worth it if you’re traveling domestically, but if you’ve got an international flight that you have to arrive extra early for? Most definitely worth it, especially if you’ve got flight connections with the same airline; your pass will usually allow you 24-hour access in all of the airline’s lounges.

Explore your different seat options

First-class travel isn’t just for the rich and famous, and you may be able to upgrade for next to nothing (or nothing at all). If there’s availability, you may be able to use vouchers and/or miles if you’re a frequent flier, or if you’ve got a credit card that racks up airline points. Even an upgrade to economy plus can mean significantly more room and for not much more money Virgin Atlantic offers an affordable premium economy option for those looking to upgrade on their next flight, and you’ll literally feel like it’s first class.

You’ll be glad you made the decision to upgrade when you’re not practically sharing a seat with a total stranger. The free alcohol in first and business class certainly helps, too.

Make your flight more comfortable

With or without first-class, making your flight a more enjoyable one overall can be easy if you plan ahead. Always make sure you travel with a good pair of headphones, because the ones they sell on-board are awful and the ones at the airport are very overpriced. Whether you decide to watch a movie, tune out a chatty neighbor or ignore the cries of a screaming baby, you’ll be grateful you brought along those headphones.

Also remember that it can be rather cold on-board, and not all airlines will supply blankets for passengers. You may want to consider bringing a travel blanket, or at the very least, a warm jacket. Consider something that is designed for cold weather, but without the bulk, which makes it easy to pack and bring on-board—but without sacrificing warmth.

Don’t forget your travel pillow, also, which will especially come in handy if you plan to sleep and/or you’ve got a long flight. This is also something you want to buy beforehand, because you’ll pay far more than you should at the airport.

Now we want to hear from you: How do you prepare for a flight, and what are your must-haves when flying?