Travelling can be undeniably stressful. From trains and buses to ferries and tuk-tuks, each mode of transport presents its own challenges. However, airplanes often take the cake for inducing the most stress – the expenses, cramped spaces, and sometimes inhumane treatment. For those of us who make a living out of travelling, adapting swiftly to find effective coping mechanisms becomes essential. Matt Gross, the former Frugal Traveler columnist for the New York Times and author of the travel memoir “The Turk Who Loved Apples,” is well-versed in the art of stress-free travel. Here are his tried-and-true tips:
1. Choose Your Departure Time Thoughtfully
My personal routine commences with selecting an early afternoon departure whenever feasible. Opting for a 2 pm flight allows me to exercise early, dodge rush hour traffic on the way to the airport, and enjoy a light lunch before boarding. (Of course, online check-in is a must. Isn’t it?)
2. Master the Art of Efficient Packing
Efficient packing has become second nature to me. I utilise a Flight 001 Spacepak to organise shirts and pants, stash socks and underwear inside my running shoes, and place toiletries in a well-organised kit. Everything fits neatly into a four-wheeled, ultralight carbon-fibre hard-shell suitcase that I am indeed going to check-in.
3. Streamline Your Email Management
All my email confirmations (flights, hotels) are forwarded to my cell phone, where an app seamlessly compiles them into a unified itinerary. Take a look at TripIt, the app that consolidates all your travel plans in one place.
4. Dress Comfortably and Practically
My attire is comfort and practicality combined. Opt for comfortable, well-fitting clothing: a wrinkle-resistant blazer, comfortably thick socks, jeans with a hint of Lycra for flexibility, and a lightweight Muji scarf for blustery destinations. I even wear shoes with laces, defying the security check hassle. I mastered tying them at the tender age of five and have since perfected the process.
5. Limber Up Your Muscles
Ironically, I’ve grown to appreciate the security checkpoint’s belt removal rule. Prior to my flight, I perform a series of stretches, and a bulky belt hinders that process. I focus on my hamstrings, calves, and hips, and even incorporate head rotations. I seek out an obscure corner of the terminal where I won’t draw attention. Though self-conscious, I board the plane physically prepared for the journey ahead.
6. Strategically Choose Your Seat
Despite my affinity for window seats, the aisle holds more appeal for me: it allows me to stroll along the plane, stretch, and access the restroom. However, my primary activity is reading, taking my shoes off, sipping a couple of beers, and relishing the disconnect from the world 35,000 feet below. At 1.77m and 68kg, I’m well-suited for air travel, yet achieving relaxation necessitates embracing discomfort. The pinnacle of stress-free travel is mastering the art of indifference – a skill honed over the years.
7. Plan Your Sleep Schedule
Strategising sleep requires careful calculation: flight duration and landing time play key roles. For a morning touchdown, I prioritise falling asleep immediately (sans medication, relying solely on willpower). If the landing is later, I may stay awake. Upon arrival, I make a conscious effort to avoid napping. If I can stay awake until 10 pm, I’m on track. The following morning at 6:30, my alarm rouses me for an invigorating run in the new destination – an hour of exploration that resets my body clock and liberates me from jet lag. As I shower off the sweat, the realisation dawns that I’m fully prepared to take flight once more.