airport stress relief, travel stress, trip wellness

Travelers chill at the LAX International Terminal

In a country that defines itself by levels of stress, it seems that taking a vacation would be the antidote. Not so according to a new survey called the ‘American Travel Pulse’. Cheap does explorers a service each year by researching how travelers are doing and their new survey reveals a lot about American travel habits and concerns.

The top five questions that cause kinks in U.S. citizen’s vacation are:

  1. We paid how much?
  2. Did you remember to bring the passports/the tickets?
  3. Did you remember to turn off the water/the gas / the electricity?
  4. How much longer?
  5. Do you have any liquids?

Let’s pause there for a moment, take a collective deep breath. These questions are easy! There can never be a vacation guarantee, as much as cruise lines and tour operators would like us to believe. Travel in itself is stressful and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

We need a little stress to push us out of our comfort zones and grow. Think of a baby taking its first steps – there are going to be bumps and wobbles in the least. Next picture that glowing smile of accomplishment when she’s finally standing up on her own.

Now imagine stepping off an airplane or onto a ship (insert mode of desired transport here) and into a completely new environment (insert dream trip destination here.) You did it! Go ahead and wobble a bit – that’s part of the fun.

Here’s a few suggested ways to defuse the top travel stress questions:

1. We paid how much?

A wise teacher of mine says: “Compare and despair.” Just asking how much a trip, service, dinner cost is setting you up for pain and if the person you’re interrogating is your travel buddy / spouse / significant other, they’re going to feel it too. It’s not the best recipe for a happy trip. Do your best when you make arrangements for the trip. Be transparent about purchases with the involved parties. Let it go. For as thick as my glasses are, my hindsight is crystal clear and I refuse to set myself up for regret.

LAX lady

2. Did you remember to bring the passports / the tickets?

If you’re in charge of the documents for yourself or others traveling with you, set up a dedicated cubby/notebook/folder for tickets, passports, itineraries. Get everyone in your travel party on board to help collect things in one spot.

Post links onto your smartphone calendar and important docs to Dropbox, or another Cloud resource where files can be shared. There are dozens of apps to help too. Tripit is one my family likes. Most of the apps have a free basic level that makes it easy to test how it works for you.

When it’s time to take off, grab the file, double check that everything’s in there and pack it away in your carry on. When the first person asks the question hand them the file to carry.

3. Did you remember to turn off the water / the gas / the electricity?

I’m not going to make light of how important the answers to this question is, but it doesn’t have to be stressful. I get it. When preparing for a long trip where this is going to be necessary, take care of yourself so you won’t be a bucket of stress when you lock the front door behind you.

Find a dedicated friend to call should something slip and make sure they can get into your place. Carry a hard copy of their contact information as well as on your phone/computer, etc. Then go, have a blast and bring them back something nice.

4. How much longer?

If there’s a child, teen or elder traveling with you, make sure you’ve packed distractions, toys, games, favorite snacks and have a few simple word games to play together along the way. If it’s a road trip – schedule stops at least every two hours. Your back will thank you and the kids will get a break before ramping up for the next query.

If you’re traveling with adults – make sure that they know the parameters of the trip and then be patient with each other. Delays happen. They can lead to discoveries you may not have anticipated – new friends, foods, landmarks. There’s a certain time for surrender to the rhythm of the journey. No time like the present and you’re on your way.

5. Do you have any liquids?

Being dehydrated is a very real stressor. By the time you realize that you’re thirsty, your body is already spiraling into a hard zone – you’ll have less energy, your mind muddles – it’s just not fun. Carry a water bottle with you everywhere. Make sure your travel buddies do too. Start the habit at home. Drain it on the way to the airport, save time to visit the bathroom, empty the bottle to get through security and fill it on the other side. Have the flight attendant fill it for you on the plane. Life will flow much more easily if you drink lots of water.My favorite discovery is a refillable water bottle with an insert for a few slices of fruit. I sip on lemon water throughout my days and the bit of flavor makes it easier. No need to buy lots of flavored, sugary drinks. Make your own! It helps to cut down on snacking too.

Just knowing that travel stress will greet you any time you step outside the front door, will help defuse it. You can handle it. Master your expectations, do your best and come home with great stories.

See the rest of the American Travel Pulse findings about travel stress and a cool infographic here.