It's fairly common knowledge that the July 4th holiday is one of the busiest travel periods of the year, and so it can be tempting to think the airports are in for a bit of a break since we're now well into July. But what's less commonly known is that Thursdays and Fridays throughout the summer are often some of the busiest of the year for airline travel. For example, American Airlines Group reported their busiest day last summer was June 30th with 698,000 travelers, while their busiest day during the Thanksgiving holiday period was 677,000. Plus, this summer is shaping up to be the busiest on record; trade group Airlines for America is predicting a record-breaking 236.1 million travelers will fly between June 1 and August 31, which is a 3.7% increase from last year and the equivalent of 2.7 million travelers per day. Related, the TSA is also predicting to screen a record number of 243 million passengers and crew members this summer season, with over 2.6 million a day during peak periods, an almost 4% increase from last year. When you add that to the fact that the TSA has implemented a number of new security procedures, you get a lot of potential for added stress while traveling. But there are ways to combat that stress.
As CEO of Ovation, a $1.1 billion travel management company, I believe one of the reasons we are successful is because we understand our clients' needs...because we have the same ones. With over 30 offices nationwide, and one in London, many of our employees travel extensively as part of their job and have quite a few travel tips among them. As such, I surveyed many of Ovation's expert Road Warriors, asking them what they do to reduce stress while traveling. Interestingly, 10 tips popped up again and again. Here is what they are:
Itinerary Management. Check-in to your flight as soon as you're able to do so (usually 24 hours prior to takeoff) and make sure you're receiving itinerary updates in case of flight delays, gate changes or cancellations. If you have an electronic boarding pass, make sure to take a screen shot so you don't have to worry about last-minute connectivity issues with a mobile device.
Pack Smartly. If possible, do not pack the morning of your flight. And, if you aren't checking a bag, check with your airline to make sure you're aware of their restrictions for dimensions and weight of whatever you are bringing on board. Related, make sure you have both your prescription and basic non-prescription drugs (aspirin, ibuprofen, antacids) on you at all times. The best gift you can give yourself is to not have to search for medicine when you need it.
Consider TSA PreCheck. If you travel more than a couple of times a year, the PreCheck program pretty much pays for itself in the time you save by not waiting in regular airport security lanes. Plus, the expedited screening benefits of the program have not changed in light of the new rules. This means leaving your shoes on and belt on and leaving your "3-1-1" liquids bag and electronics in your carry-on as they are screened.
Exercise. Long flights can mean fatigue and grogginess, not to mention the poor blood circulation from sitting so long. If possible, try to work out before a trip. If you're unable to exercise or if it's not your thing, consider skipping the moving walkways in the airport or stretching a bit to get your blood flowing.
Bring an Extra Charger & External Battery Pack. The only thing worse than a phone or computer with a drained battery is no way to remedy the situation. An external battery pack is great because you won't have to wander around, searching for a place to plug your phone in, and then find the effort was wasted because that space is being taken up by someone else's charging phone.
Bring Snacks and Water on the Plane. Your options for food become exponentially more limited the moment you step on a plane. Pack some healthy options (although note the new TSA food-screening procedures) and buy some water at the airport so you never have to worry about being dehydrated if a flight attendant is busy. Related, a heavy meal before a long flight isn't great for digestion, particularly if there ends up being turbulence.
Make Yourself Comfortable. Wear clothing that will help you relax; even if your travel necessitates business dress, it doesn't have to be constrictive. And if napping might be an option, consider an eye mask, travel pillow, portable light blanket or even a scarf to provide comfort and support.
Consider Noise Cancelling Headphones. These are great for multiple reasons. They can drown out other passengers or any other white noise and help you relax and possibly sleep better or, on the flip side, concentrate more fully if you plan to work while in flight. Plus you can download music or guided meditations, or simply use them as your connection to the audio of a movie.
Plan Your Plane Time. Download a movie or TV show you've been dying to watch or catch up on. Bring a book or a magazine. Assume there won't be any in-flight entertainment, so you won't be stuck twiddling your thumbs if there isn't any. Or, you can go the other route and plan the time for work - just make sure your laptop is charged.
Time Management is Key. Perhaps not surprisingly, the one thing on the top of everyone's list is good time management. Traveling is stressful and so many things--from traffic to a long security line to a last-minute gate change--are out of your control. The one thing you do have is the ability to plan that extra half hour or hour into your day. Do it! Worst case scenario, you can congratulate yourself with all that extra time by looking for snacks and browsing for magazines and, in general, relaxing.