When I look back at 2017, it truly feels like a year marked by travel: There was my trip with G to Japan in March, a weekend in Toronto, Seattle, (several to) San Francisco, and more than one quick trip to New York (including the 36-hour trip I returned from a few days ago!). For someone who travels pretty regularly, you'd think I'd experience less anxiety getting on a plane, but it's still something I don't exactly look forward to. For the weeks leading up to the trip, I worry about whether I'll pack correctly, if I'll have enough entertainment on the plane, and jet lag. And then there are the mishaps you can't plan against—delays and bad weather, matcha stains on your one white blouse (which actually happened in New York), a temperamental toddler. But I've also become something of an expert at strategizing and preparing for all the obstacles that come with travel. Below, I compiled five of the most-common issues I run into and my solutions:
I can't count the number of times I've looked put-together on a flight out, only to look like a complete mess on the way home, despite my best efforts. And while that's not the end of the world, if you're on a work trip or generally trying to feel good about yourself, it's also not the best look—literally. A few years ago, I discovered a fool-proof travel uniform that I've relied on ever since. I just throw on a Rag & Bone poncho (I store it in my luggage so it's a special treat when flying), red lipstick, and aviators. I could be wearing a sack underneath and still look passably chic, though I often reach for skinny black jeans and a flattering tank. It takes the guesswork out of travel, and gives me comfort to know I have a cozy and cute uniform I can always rely on.
I'm pretty sure I have G's minimalism to thank for this, but it's actually rare that I pack a bag I need to check. And not only does it save time when you arrive, but it's also much easier to manage everything.
First, I create a check list and only pack exactly what's on it. It's very organized and broken down by catgegory - clothing, shoes, beauty, tech, miscellaneous, etc. It helps me remember the important things that are easy to forget (I'm looking at you, toothpaste, Advil, and deodorant) and take comfort in knowing I'm well prepared. Travel is a time to stick to your tried-and-true and transitional pieces. Once I've selected my pieces and laid them out on my bed, I roll apparel before packing them into my rolling carry-on. This helps with space and keeps everything as wrinkle-free as possible. Once I'm done with a trip, I keep a running note on my phone of travel-sized items I'm out of, and then order those right away so that I never have to check a bag due to a large face wash. Finally, I'll wear my bulkiest items on the plane (usually a jacket, plus boots or sneakers), and will bring a large tote to fit Sloan's toys, my laptop, etc.
READ MORE: Here's what I pack in my carry-on!
I'll be honest, before I had Sloan, I'd sometimes give a side-eye to parents traveling with little ones who were running up and down the aisle. Fast-forward a few years, and I have endless respect for any parent traveling with a kid! It took some trial-and-error, patience, and definitely a few tears (from both Sloan and me...), but we finally have a routine down.
Sloan doesn't cooperate every second of every trip, but we've learned that entertainment is key. G bought a tool that lets you hook an iPad to the back of a seat in a car, which is hugely helpful for road trips. Any crafts that are easy to travel with are a great idea for planes—as are pre-downloaded movies or shows. And, as a girl after my own heart, Sloan loves a good snack, so we come prepared in the food department with standard favorites as well as fun and new-to-her options. We also had a happy accident during our last trip with Sloan, when we had a spur-of-the-moment evening departure on Saturday night (rather than a 4 a.m. departure Sunday morning). Because we left after dinner, Sloan dozed the entire six-hour drive back so we didn't have to stop once, where we usually lose an hour to letting her run around at a restaurant halfway up our route.
And lastly, sympathy and consideration is key for both travelers with and without children! If you see a mom struggling to board the plane with little ones, a little help can go a long way—offer a helping hand whenever you can, or even a knowing smile.
I get hit hard by jet lag, and could be classified as a zombie whenever I land in a city with a drastically different time zone (I was so out of it after landing in Paris last year that I don't remember our car ride from the airport to our hotel).
To combat it, I try to be smart about how much water I'm drinking, for days leading up to the trip. Adding in a couple extra glasses of water a day to stay hydrated helps to counteract a general *blah* feeling leading into the trip.
Then, once the travel day hits, it's smart to make a realistic plan that accommodates your energy level. If I'm taking an early-morning flight, I'll skip the coffee on board for the chance to get a few more hours of shut-eye or rest. If I'm on a red-eye, I'll set myself up with an eye mask, lavender essential oil, and noise-canceling headphones (phone and iPad screens don't even turn on since sleep is a priority). I also make it a point to skip booze and high-sodium foods that suck hydration levels (like my favorite Gardetto's mix). Instead, I'll travel with energy-boosting foods like almonds and fresh vegetable sticks.
Apart from my intense anxiety while flying, delays are my least favorite thing about traveling. It's a unanimous annoyance, and unfortunately one that's usually out of our hands—and the people working for the airlines. Instead of letting frustrations out on flight attendants or airline personnel, remember to be kind in the moment. If you feel like the situation was handled poorly on the airline's side, head to the gate and voice your concerns to the airline rep once you've de-boarded. A lot of times, airlines will provide free vouchers (free drinks, a comped flight, credit, etc.). If you aren't getting anywhere, most companies reply quickly to direct tweets or Facebook tags. I've also heard wonderful things about AirHelp, and found this article helpful when it comes to fair reimbursements.
On top of general compassion and patience, I've started to look at traveling as uninterrupted "me" time (when I'm traveling alone, of course). Whether on your own or with your family, consider changing your mindset—it's often a time to devour a new book or to catch up on mediocre movies without worrying about your to-do list. It's not ideal, but it definitely makes the sting a bit more enjoyable.