Travel is one of the most satisfying experiences in life, but it can also totally wear you out. Between the crowds of people, the overpriced airport food, and flight delays, there are so many ways travel can go wrong. We talked to Bianca DiValerio, a flight attendant who also blogs about her goal of early retirement at MissMazuma, about how to make the travel experience more efficient. She gave us five solid tips for making the most out of your trip.
1. PACK LIGHT.
One of the biggest mistakes many travelers make is bringing too much stuff with them. “I once saw a hiking documentary where someone said that we carry all of our fears in our luggage,” DiValerio says. “What if I need this? What if this goes wrong? But what if it rains? Whatever it is, handle it when it happens. That is part of the joy of travel!”
If you’re traveling alone, you can likely bring everything you need in a small carry-on that fits under your seat. If not, pay to check your bags (or fly with one of the few airlines that still offer free checked bags) so that you don’t have to carry them all over the airport while you wait for your flight. Many people are afraid to do this because they don’t want to wait at baggage claim, but DiValerio says most airlines have sped up this process. “I promise they come out way faster than they used to,” she says.
One final packing tip: Instead of wasting precious luggage space for toiletries and essentials, consider buying these at your destination.
2. GET THERE EARLY.
You might be surprised at how many travelers don’t show up to the airport with ample time, DiValerio says. Err on the side of getting there too early rather than too late. “Planes leave at the scheduled time,” she says. “They can close the door for boarding 10 minutes earlier than the departure time and give your seat away to a standby. So get there early.”
A good rule of thumb is to get to the airport an hour before your scheduled departure. If it’s an international flight, get there two hours early.
3. GET SOME EXERCISE.
OK, so you’ve made it to the airport early and now you’re bored. What to do? “Most people hit the bars and restaurants to pass time,” DiValerio says. But she advises against this: As most seasoned travelers will tell you, the food is always overpriced and usually terrible. Instead, use the time to get some exercise and move around, which is especially important if you’re going to be sitting for the next few hours. “I like to take advantage of ground time by walking laps to get my steps in or just sitting and people watching,” DiValerio says. “Everyone is coming and going. There is excitement all around and, if we take a moment to look up from our devices, that energy is contagious.”
Of course, if you get sick of that, you can always get back on your device to binge watch some Netflix to pass the time. Make sure to download your shows in advance so you can watch without Wi-Fi.
4. BE CAREFUL WITH THE BOOZE.
If you feel completely out of it when you have a single drink on your flight, it’s not your imagination. “One drink in the air equals two on the ground,” DiValerio says. “Low cabin pressure equals less oxygen, which is the main attribute to such magic, so don't think you can beat it. You will wind up arriving a disheveled, drunken mess.” So go slow.
5. BE KIND TO THE CREW.
Yes, delayed flights can be a nightmare, but remember: It’s not the crew’s fault. In fact, they may be even more bummed about the news—it means they’re not getting paid. “Our pay starts when the forward entry door is closed,” DiValerio says. “That means every time we are boarding or deplaning or the flight is delayed due to weather, mechanicals, or medicals, we aren't making money.”
Thus, a little kindness will go a long way when you’re stuck on the ground. “We’re just as anxious to get on the move as you are,” DiValerio says. “If it happens to be the end of our trip, we too have families waiting for us at home, parties to get to, holidays to enjoy, and funerals to attend.” So remember, you’re in it together. And once you’re in the air, you want to make sure the flight attendant is your friend.